“Crooked Hillary will die in jail!” and other tabloid stunners

You pays your money and you takes your choice with this week's tabloids.

"Crooked Hillary Will Die in Jail!" screams the 'Globe' cover, with a two-page exclusive inside predicting "Hillary's Prison Death Sentence!" You have to admire the Photoshopped picture of an ashen-faced Hillary, dark bags around her eyes, care-worn face furrowed with wrinkles, clad in an orange jumpsuit behind  grey metal prison bars. It's harder to be impressed by the "new evidence that will put her away!" which supposedly will be supplied by former president Bill Clinton when he testifies before the Eastern District of New York grand jury investigating the Clinton Foundation -- testimony which he may never give. And that "death sentence"? That's simply the 'Globe' anticipating that "Bill's testimony sends her away for 20 years," and with her "killer medical ailments, even a 10-year stretch would be a death sentence."

But if you believe the 'National Enquirer' -- and who wouldn't? -- the future looks rosy for Hillary Clinton, who it forecasts could be the next Mayor of New York City. It "Could Happen" assures the 'Enquirer,' which calls her mayoral election "easy pickings."

Singer George Michael "turned to booze and drugs" after his voice was "destroyed" by pneumonia in 2011, leading to his tragic demise, reports the 'Globe.'

Or you can believe the 'Enquirer,' which insists: "Blackmail Demands Drove George To Suicide!" Supposedly Michael was "driven to suicide by sinister blackmail threats from a train of male lovers in his life." It's a typically homophobic allegation that makes little sense for a man who was openly and proudly gay, and had little to fear from exposure. Read the rest

How to fake George Michael’s death, and other tabloid lies

How is “fake news” constructed? This week's ‘National Enquirer’ gives us a shining example of how it’s done.

Filling its cover is a somber photo of the late George Michael in repose, eyes closed, finally at peace.

“George Michael - The Last Photo!” screams the headline, below the shocking revelation: “Pop Icon’s Suicide Note Found."

Those are two great exclusives. If only they were true.

The photo of the singer apparently lying in his casket was actually taken two months before his death. In the original photo he was standing, but the ‘Enquirer’ simply turned the image on its side. George Michael was blinking when the picture was taken - an image that would normally be discarded, but useful in this instance to give the impression that he was at his final rest.

As for his “suicide note,” it doesn’t exist.

“I’m going insane, and I know there’s another way to do this,” the ‘Enquirer’ claims he wrote in his alleged suicide note. “I swear to God it was like I had a curse on me.”

The first line is actually an old quote made by the singer recalling his sadness after the death of his lover Anselmo Feleppa from an Aids-related illness, and then his beloved mother’s demise, between 1994 to 1997.

In the same breath, Michael had said back then: “I’d have to be seriously mentally disturbed to even consider suicide because of what it would do to the people who were already devastated from losing my mother.”

Michael’s quote about feeling that he was laboring under a “curse” came from an interview he gave to ‘The Guardian’ in 2005 - not a suicide note as the ‘Enquirer’ claims. Read the rest

Blue feed, red feed: side-by-side comparisons of social media feeds by politics

One of the most compelling data visualization projects from this year was Wall Street Journal's Blue Feed, Red Feed, which lets readers see exactly how divergent social media feeds have become, depending on someone's media diet. By coincidence, I capped an example that puts Boing Boing in their blue feed column. Read the rest

Every Trump lie will be instantly laundered as headline news

Yesterday, Donald Trump claimed to have gotten Sprint to bring 5,000 jobs back to America. This claim is false; the jobs have been coming for months. But a lot of media instantly published Trump's claim, many with Trump as the sole source and no reporting or fact-checking whatosever.

Trump and Sprint simply put out PR and everyone rewrote it. Sprint ignored inquiries from reporters who figured it out, only admitting that the jobs were "previously announced" after the company became the story and things started getting hot.

When I reached out to a Sprint spokeswoman asking if the announcement was a direct result of working with Trump or part of a pre-existing deal, she copy and pasted the press release I'd sent along with my first email. I responded saying I already had the press release and asked again if this was a direct result of working with Trump or part of a pre-existing deal in place. I tagged Sprint in a tweet about the situation, and it wasn't until after that started getting retweeted that the spokesperson responded.

"This is part of the 50,000 jobs that Masa previously announced," she said. "This total will be a combination of newly created jobs and bringing some existing jobs back to the U.S."

This is how it's going to be: he lies, and reporters instantly launder the statement into impartial-sounding headlines in the rush to be first. The excuse will be that stenography is journalism.

Get used to this sort of thing:

The New York Times:

Trump Takes Credit for Sprint Plan to Add 5,000 Jobs in U.S.
Read the rest

Marked for death - and the stars who defy the tabloids.

It’s that time of year when we look back on those we’ve loved and lost in 2016, but for the tabloids, it’s worth remembering those we haven’t lost  -  the stars we were promised had just days to live, yet who refuse to play the game and are still with us.

Nick Nolte, Cher, Jerry Lewis, Valerie Harper  -  all were given just weeks to live, yet defy the highly trained medical reporting teams of America's best tabloids.

For one moment set aside thoughts of David Bowie, Prince, George Michael and Carrie Fisher. Let’s take a break from mourning Zsa Zsa Gabor, the inspiration for celebutantes from Kim Kardashian to Paris Hilton, taken before her prime at the age of 99, with so much left to live for. Instead, let’s spare a moment of compassion for those poor tabloid hacks who wonder why their predictions of celebrity demise have proven so wrong. “Michael Douglas  -  The End!” screamed the ‘National Enquirer’ cover on March 28, 2016. He’s still with us.

“Michael J Fox  -  The End!” yelled the ‘Globe' front page on April 4. Also still with us.

With their expert medical knowledge and years of psychic training, tabloid reporters can often predict to the day how long an ailing celebrity has left.

‘Valerie Harper  -  2 Months To Live!” reported the ‘Globe’ on its cover of February 1. It’s been almost ten months, and she’s still here.

“Michael Douglas Cancer Relapse  -  3 Months To Live!” stated the cover of the ‘Enquirer’ on February 8. Read the rest

How to Destroy Democracy: SF Bay Area event Jan 10 with Masha Gessen and Drew Sullivan

We hope you can join us for this urgent conversation hosted by Institute for the Future, where Mark Frauenfelder and I are researchers:

Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, California invites you to join us January 10, 2017 for an eye-opening discussion about global politics, corruption, and our best hope for preserving civic society featuring:

• Masha Gessen, author of The Man Without a Face: the Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin and Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot

• Drew Sullivan, co-founder of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP)

• plus additional investigative journalists from Russia and Eastern Europe.

Right-wing populist parties and autocratic leaders are gaining power in many countries, from France and Russia to Hungary and Poland. This trend long predates the recent U.S. elections that have added fuel to the fire. How did we get here? What are the real stories behind the headlines? This is a rare opportunity to hear first-hand from journalists who risk their lives analyzing the multi-trillion dollar criminal economy and uncovering corruption around the globe.

This group of journalists, along with other experts from the realms of media, academia, policy, and technology, are in the Bay Area to participate in a private convening hosted by the Institute for the Future in partnership with the Skoll Foundation and OCCRP. The convening, called The Future of Democracy: Preserving A Vibrant Civic Media, will result in a public roadmap of initiatives to preserve an open civic dialogue and strengthen democracy for everyone.

Read the rest

This week in the 'bloids

What happens when the tabloids hit bottom? We find out this week, when the ‘Globe’ brings us five photo-filled pages of the “worst butts in showbiz,” along with some of the worst picture captions and most labored puns accompanying celebrity derrieres..

Heidi Klum’s posterior is “frolicking at the crack of dawn,” Blac Chyna has “all the junk in that trunk,” Halle Berry’s rear “deserves a SAG award,” Amber Rose has a “caboose on the loose,” and singer Kesha needs help “to stop her wide load from expanding.”

Such deathless prose is matched for ineptitude by the magazine’s far-fetched “world exclusive” cover screaming: “Charles on trial for Diana’s Murder!” and the ensuing story claiming: “Prince Charles has been arrested by military police for the murder of Princess Diana.” The ‘Globe’ reports that “a top-secret tribunal” has been convened by Charles’ mother, the Queen. It’s a great story, except for the small detail that the Queen cannot convene military tribunals, that such a tribunal would have no reason to arrest Charles on criminal charges when that’s the job of the regular police, and a 2013 Scotland Yard investigation into allegations that a member of the British Armed Forces played a role in Diana’s death failed to inspire any charges.

The British Royal Family stay in the tabloid cross-hairs in the ‘National Enquirer,’ which reports that photos of actress Meghan Markle “caught topless on a beach with another man” could destroy her blossoming romance with Prince Harry and “could make Queen blow her top.” The bare-breasted photo was taken in 2005, however, 11 years before Markle met Harry, and it’s not as if we’ve never seen Royals scantily clad before. Read the rest

Newspaper corrections of the year for 2016

Poynter collects the wildest journalistic corrections of the past year. Among the best, here's one from the New York Times.

Because of an editing error, an article on Monday about a theological battle being fought by Muslim imams and scholars in the West against the Islamic State misstated the Snapchat handle used by Suhaib Webb, one of the Muslim leaders speaking out. It is imamsuhaibwebb, not Pimpin4Paradise786.

Times corrections are often clever and succinct works of journalism in their own right. But most "corrections" are just the consequences of humorous typos, math errors, jumbled names, etc.

What's great about it all, though, is how pretty much everything in the corrections roundup is so trivial. Good to know the media's been correct of late on all the big things.

Here's Boulder, Colorados' Daily Camera

EDITOR'S NOTE: Comments attributed to a Trump campaign spokeswoman were removed from an earlier version of this story at her request after she learned she would be identified by name.
Read the rest

“Mainstream media is the Real Fake News!” says National Enquirer

The election may be over, but this week's tabloids see it as their constitutional duty to continue slinging political mud. Donald Trump has taken charge, Malia Obama is in rehab, and Bill Clinton is ravaged by cancer, proclaims this week’s Trump mouthpiece the ‘National Enquirer,' for good measure adding that actor Alec Baldwin only dislikes Trump because his ex-wife Kim Basinger had a crush on the president-elect. How happy is the ‘Enquirer’ with its past year’s political coverage? "The Enquirer forged into the political arena in a way we had never done before, influencing the election with scoop after groundbreaking scoop,” writes ‘Enquirer’ editor-in-chief Dylan Howard in a self-congratulatory op ed, no doubt referring to such classics as the magazine's unsubstantiated claims that Ted Cruz’s father aided Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Hillary Clinton is suffering an array of potentially lethal illnesses including a “time bomb” brain aneurysm, and Bill Clinton has Alzheimer’s disease. “Mainstream media is the Real Fake News!” writes “the most feared voice in politics," former White House advisor Dick Morris, in the ‘Enquirer,’ which may be the embodiment of Orwellian Newspeak, when the birthplace of fake news dares to claim that it is the only purveyor of truth. ‘Enquirer’ stablemate the ‘Globe’ refuses to be left out of the fun, with its cover revealing “Hillary’s Nervous Breakdown on Election Night!” As Trump’s improbable victory became clear on election day, Hillary “became more and more unhinged and ‘started belting back booze to numb her shock’,” until she was “weeping and incoherent,” according to an unnamed source. Read the rest

An attempt to chart media brands on the fake-real spectrum

From Imgur: "A decent breakdown of all things real and fake news." Here is is full size. Read the rest

Trump’s wild imaginings promulgated in tabloids alongside equally fact-challenged celebrity “news”

Fidel Castro confessed on his deathbed to killing JFK, Prince Harry has impregnated his American actress girlfriend, Priscilla Presley has six months to live, and President Donald Trump will save 25 million jobs.

Those are the headlines in this week’s tabloids, and it’s salutary to see Trump’s wild imaginings promulgated alongside equally fact-challenged celebrity “news.”

Does the ‘National Enquirer’ really have an unnamed “American intelligence source” with inside information about the Cuban dictator’s supposedly whispered final words? There’s about as much chance as the ‘Globe’ having a Buckingham Palace mole revealing that Prince Harry has impregnated Meghan Markle, or that Prince Charles urged his youngest son “to come to his senses and buy off the bimbo.”

Any why does Priscilla Presley have only six months to live? She’s being killed by a “toxic facelift,” claims the ‘Globe,’ inspired by photographs analyzed by its crack team of medically-trained psychic reporters. Yes, facial fillers can sometimes spark infections that in rare cases prove fatal, but saying that Presley is dying simply because she may have had cosmetic procedures is like saying that someone is dying of cancer simply because they once smoked a cigarette. And Priscilla Presley shouldn’t be allowed to die while we’re still waiting for Nick Nolte to pass away, having outlived his ‘Enquirer’ predicted demise by four months, and Cher’s promised shuffling off of her mortal coil before the New Year.

It’s that time of year when the tabloids just say WTF and fill pages with retrospectives of the past 12 months, because it’s easier than making up new stories. Read the rest

Mr Robot has driven a stake through the Hollywood hacker, and not a moment too soon

Mr Robot is the most successful example of a small but fast-growing genre of "techno-realist" media, where the focus is on realistic portrayals of hackers, information security, surveillance and privacy, and it represents a huge reversal on the usual portrayal of hackers and computers as convenient plot elements whose details can be finessed to meet the story's demands, without regard to reality. Read the rest

This week in the bloids

We may be living in a "post-truth” culture where feelings trump facts (and Trump ignores facts) but the tabloids have been living there for years, and this week’s tabloid flights of fantasy are no different.

“Drugs tearing Keith & Nicole Apart,” claims the ‘National Enquirer’ in an exposé about Nicole Kidman and husband Keith Urban - except the story is about an alleged former drug dealer’s “fears” that Urban is “teetering on the brink of a devastating relapse.” In other words Kieth is still straight and sober as far as the Enquirer knows, and a dubious source who admits not seeing Urban for 15 years is worried. Post-truthism at its finest.

As is the ‘Enquirer’ exclusive proclaiming: “Prince Harry Cross-Dressing Disaster!” Has Britain’s most politically incorrect Royal taken to fishnets and stilettos? No such luck. Though the ‘Enquirer’ claims that Harry is “caught in a shocking cross-dressing scandal,” actually it’s his girlfriend, American actress Meghan Markle, whose “brother" is revealed in photos wearing a dress and fake breasts. Actually it’s Markle’s mustachioed half-brother, and the photo clearly shows he’s wearing the dress for a lark, not as some lifestyle statement. There’s no scandal, and no way that Prince Harry is somehow entangled in it.

“Drugs Driving Kanye Insane!” screams another ‘Enquirer’ headline, claiming that the singer's hospitalization for “exhaustion” was sparked when “sky-high on booze and a cocktail of drugs.” Based on what? A source claims: “He’s got big problems!” True, but that doesn’t necessarily make his breakdown drug-related. Where are the facts? Read the rest

NPR tracks down "fake news" entrepreneur claiming up to $30,000 a month from ads: "I have a beautiful life"

The Denver Guardian looked enough like a real news site to convince legions of Facebookers that its fake news about Hillary Clinton was worth sharing. The anonymous creator reused an old handle in an early posting there, though, allowing NPR to track him down to the LA suburbs.

Jestin Coler, 40, weasels at first, claiming it's all an attempt to "highlight the extremism" and show "how easily fake news spreads." But he's soon boasting of a business operation that brings in five figures a month from ads.

Coler's company, Disinfomedia, owns many faux news sites — he won't say how many. But he says his is one of the biggest fake-news businesses out there, which makes him a sort of godfather of the industry.

At any given time, Coler says, he has between 20 and 25 writers. And it was one of them who wrote the story in the Denver Guardian that an FBI agent who leaked Clinton emails was killed. Coler says that over 10 days the site got 1.6 million views. He says stories like this work because they fit into existing right-wing conspiracy theories.

"The people wanted to hear this," he says. "So all it took was to write that story. Everything about it was fictional: the town, the people, the sheriff, the FBI guy. And then ... our social media guys kind of go out and do a little dropping it throughout Trump groups and Trump forums and boy it spread like wildfire."

As with other fake news hucksters, Coler says he also targeted liberals and lefties too, but found that they didn't fall for it the way others do. Read the rest

Are Jews people? Find out after the break on CNN

How fast things move! Here's us, suggesting that media people stop using the cutesy term "alt right" to describe Sieg Heiling white supremacists. But they're already moving onto panel discussions on whether Jews are people. Read the rest

“Oswald didn’t kill JFK!” and more tabloid stunners

What are we coming to when the ‘National Enquirer’ accurately reports Donald Trump’s speech promising reforms in his “first 100 days” in office? They even add, in giant print on the front page, "in his own words” - because they know how rare it is for anyone quoted in the ‘Enquirer’ to actually be quoted correctly.

Of course, the Trump-supporting rag can’t resist gloating, putting it all beneath the cover headline: “We Told You So!”

How long can it be before the New York Times is reporting on Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie’s divorce, or Prince Harry’s latest girlfriend? Oh wait -- they’ve already done that.

But the ‘Enquirer’ can’t maintain its facade of accuracy for long, plunging headlong into a series of highly dubious fact-free zones. Princes Harry’s girlfriend, American actress Meghan Markle, is reportedly enduing a “Nude Photo Horror!” But it’s typical ‘Enquirer’ wishful thinking. Markle evidently told a humorous anecdote about skinny-dipping in a New Zealand lake one day in 2012, only to find that pranksters had stolen her clothes. “She’s panicked that the photos will be published,” raves the mag. Except there are no photos. Never were. There’s no suggestion that a single photo was snapped. No nude photo horror. No panic.

Actress Jennifer Garner is saving her troubled marriage to Ben Affleck by having a baby, reports the ‘Enquirer,’ for at least the second time this year. This is based on a photo that shows Garner is a loose-fitting shirt. Just like the photos of her six months ago in a loose sweater, when they also swore she was pregnant. Read the rest

Why are Republicans happy with a guy who wants to "turn on the hate" and destroy them?

The New York Times opposes president-Elect's Trump's appointment of Breitbart executive Steve Bannon to a top White House role. In an editorial titled "Turn on the Hate," they quote him at his own word--and challenge Republicans on their sudden accommodation with a man who says he's a Leninist that wants to destroy both political parties and the State.

Mr. Bannon is in some ways a perplexing figure: a far-right ideologue who made his millions investing in “Seinfeld”; a former Goldman Sachs banker who has reportedly called himself a “Leninist” with a goal “to destroy the state” and “bring everything crashing down.” He has also called progressive women “a bunch of dykes” and, in a 2014 email to one of his editors, wrote of the Republican leadership, “Let the grassroots turn on the hate because that’s the ONLY thing that will make them do their duty.” ...

But most Republican officeholders have so far remained silent. Some have dismissed fears about Mr. Bannon. Other Republicans have praised him, like Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, whom Mr. Trump announced as his chief of staff on Sunday, and who said Mr. Bannon could not be such a bad guy because he served in the Navy and went to Harvard Business School. Some saw the pick of Mr. Priebus as evidence that Mr. Trump would not be leaning so much on Mr. Bannon. But don’t be fooled by Mr. Priebus’s elevated title; in the press release announcing both hires, Mr.

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