NPR Posts “Fake News” Criticism of “Fake News”

There may be others but this is the first “fake news” story that I have seen that is critical of “fake news.” At least by NPR.

Students Have ‘Dismaying’ Inability To Tell Fake News From Real, Study Finds by Camila Domoske

Domoske does a credible summary of the contents of the executive summary, for which only one paragraph is necessary to opt out of presenting this story on NPR:


When we began our work we had little sense of the depth of the problem. We even found ourselves rejecting ideas for tasks because we thought they would be too easy. Our first round of piloting shocked us into reality. Many assume that because young people are fluent in social media they are equally savvy about what they find there. Our work shows the opposite. We hope to produce a series of high-quality web videos to showcase the depth of the problem revealed by students’ performance on our tasks and demonstrate the link between digital literacy and citizenship. By drawing attention to this connection, a series of videos could help to mobilize educators, policymakers, and others to address this threat to democracy.

Comparing the NPR coverage and the executive summary, the article reflects the steps taken by the study, but never questions its conclusion that an inability to assess online information is indeed a “threat to democracy.”

To support that conclusion, which earned this story a spot on NPR, the researchers would need historical data on how well or poorly, students assessed sources of information at other time periods in American history, along with an assessment of “democracy” at the time, along with the demonstration of a causal relationship between the two.

But as you can see from the NPR article, Domoske fails to ask the most rudimentary questions about this study, such as:

“Is there a relationship between democracy and the ability to evaluate sources of information?”

Or, “What historical evidence demonstrates a relationship between democracy and the ability to evaluate sources of information?”

Utter silence on the part of Domoske.

The real headline for a follow-up on this story should be:

NPR Reporter Unable To Distinguish Credible Research From Headline Driven Reports.

I’m going to be listening for that report.

Are you?

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