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Writers and Editors (RSS feed)

Covering Suicide

If you are having thoughts of suicide, in the United States

call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255 (TALK) or

go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources or 

contact 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals in the United States.


For resources outside the United States, go here: International Suicide Prevention Helplines

Apply a public health frame to report responsibly and effectively on firearm suicide (Kaitlin Washburn, Covering Health, AHCJ, 7-13-23) Firearm suicides represent more than half of overall gun deaths every year in the U.S. And that ratio can be worse in certain areas — states with higher rates of firearm ownership in the home have higher rates of suicide overall compared to states with lower firearm ownership rates, according to the nonprofit Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. An effective suicide prevention method is the safe storage of firearms, which means storing guns unloaded, locked up and separate from ammunition. Best practices and guide for reporters. See especially:
---The Suicide Reporting Toolkit For Journalists and Journalism Educators
---Recommendations for Reporting on Suicide
---CDC page on suicide prevention
---Best Practices For Covering Suicide (988Lifeline.org)
---Media as Partners in Suicide Prevention (The American Association of Suicidology)
How Should the Media Cover Suicides? Some Answers (Jamie Ducharme, Time, 7-30-18) In June 2018, fashion designer Kate Spade and celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain died by suicide just days apart. The same week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a report about rising suicide rates across the country. More recently were stories about a study linking climate change and rising temperatures to a potential increase in deaths by suicide.
      "Researchers report that stories about celebrity suicides, headlines that included information about how a suicide was completed and statements that made suicide seem inevitable were all correlated with suicide contagion. (Other research backs this up: In the four months after Robin Williams’ highly publicized 2014 death by suicide, one study found a 10% increase in suicides across the U.S.) Meanwhile, negative descriptions of suicide and messages of hope were associated with a protective effect, though neither reached statistical significance, perhaps because they appeared in articles so infrequently."
      The framing of a story is important, too, says Dr. Mark Sinyor, a new study’s lead investigator and a psychiatrist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, in an email to TIME. “Ideally, journalists would not treat suicide as an entertainment story but as what it truly is: a health story,” Sinyor says.

      “Suicide invariably arises from treatable mental disorders. Most people who experience suicidal crises find paths to resilience, and there is no reason anyone has to die by suicide.”

How The New York Times handled life-or-death ethical issues while reporting on a popular suicide website (Barbara Allen, Poynter, 12-16-21) The ethical issues running throughout The New York Times’ recent piece, “Where the Despairing Log On, and Learn Ways to Die,” were numerous and complicated. That’s why the team behind it never stopped talking about them.
     Megan Twohey and Gabriel J.X. Dance said they have both had experience and interest in reporting on online harm, especially where children and young people were concerned. “It wasn’t just that this was a site that was providing explicit instructions and methods on how to die by suicide,” Twohey said in a recent interview with Poynter. “It was an interactive forum.”
      Dance and Twohey both said the more they explored, the more they felt a journalistic and moral obligation to report on the site, which they said gets six million visitors a month from around the world — four times as many views as the leading national suicide prevention website, Twohey said. So when they found out about a popular suicide support website, they dove in.The team relied on advice and conversations with experts, veterans, editors and each other.
     Twohey said she was struck by the fact that despite the site’s popularity, many families, law enforcement, mental health professionals and even coroners had never heard of the site or the preservative....In the end, it was most important to Dance and Twohey that their reporting shone a light on a dark corner of the internet.
      Twohey said that as they got closer to publication, she and Dance met almost daily with suicide experts, who advised them to make sure they weren’t glamorizing anything, that stories included true messages of hope instead of only despair, and that people usually pull out of suicidal thoughts. “There were these broader questions that we were grappling with, honestly, every single day in the reporting of this."


Where the Despairing Log On, and Learn Ways to Die (Megan Twohey and Gabriel J.X. Dance, NY Times interactive, 12-9-21) Most suicide websites are about prevention. One started in March 2018 — by two shadowy figures calling themselves Marquis and Serge — provides explicit directions on how to die. It has the trappings of popular social media, a young audience and explicit content on suicide that other sites don’t allow. It is linked to a long line of lives cut short. Participants routinely nudge one another along as they share suicide plans, posting reassuring messages, thumbs-up and heart emojis, and praise for those who follow through: “brave,” “a legend,” “a hero.” More than 500 members — a rate of more than two a week — wrote “goodbye threads” announcing how and when they planned to end their lives, and then never posted again.
       "The suicide rate has risen over the past 20 years in the United States. About 45,000 people take their own lives each year — more than die from traffic accidents. (That figure does not count the hundreds of physician-assisted deaths in the nine states where they are legal and restricted to the terminally ill.)"
For many people, suicidal thoughts will eventually pass, experts say. Treatment and detailed plans to keep safe can help. But clinicians and researchers warn that people are much more likely to attempt suicide if they learn about methods and become convinced that it’s the right thing to do. The suicide site facilitates both. In the site’s written rules, assisting and encouraging suicide were prohibited, while providing “factual information” and “emotional support” was not. In practice, some members urged others on, whether with gentle reassurance or with more force.

Surviving Suicide (Anthony D. Smith, Psychology Today, 11-10-20) Suicide is often a surprise, leaving survivors wondering, "What did I miss?" and having to manage the insult of guilt while managing the injury of grieving. "The title of the book But I Didn't Say Goodbye: Helping Families After a Suicide (by Barbara Rubel) gets at another poignant difference. It's an unadvertised, abrupt ending, and you can feel like you were snubbed, creating more intense anger than usual grief. Lastly, some families, especially in cultures concerned with honor, may view a relative's suicide as shameful and stigmatizing and not discuss it, period. In return, they don't even get to experience simple catharsis and release some mental pressure, let alone process it to move on. The grief lingers and festers, evolving into a chronic issue that takes over their lives." The Centers for Disease Control (2020) reported that in 2018 there were in excess of 48,000 suicides in the United States. "That's a lot of people left hurting." 

Covering Suicide — Attempted, Completed and Otherwise (Al Tompkins, Poynter, 9-27-06) "Almost 4 times as many Americans died by suicide during the Vietnam War era as died in the course of military action.... Whites kill themselves at a much higher rate than blacks.... Hispanic youth are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population and account for one fourth of all Hispanic suicide deaths.Hispanic males were almost six times as likely to die by suicide as Hispanic females, representing 85 percent of the 8,744 Hispanic suicides between 1997 and 2001.... Suicide is usually a complicated response to overwhelming problems as opposed to a simple, unplanned reaction to one life challenge. In others words, it is not as simple as saying “he was unhappy with last week’s game” or some such explanation."

Responsible Media Coverage Saves Lives (Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, or SAVE) 'Media and online coverage of suicide should be informed by using best practices. Some suicide deaths may be newsworthy; however, the way media covers suicide can influence behavior negatively by contributing to contagion or positively by encouraging help-seeking. Suicide Contagion or “Copycat Suicide” occurs when one or more suicides are reported in a way that contributes to another suicide.'
Suicide reporting guidelines 1. Exclude suicide as cause of death
2. Use appropriate language
3. Avoid blame
4. Include Education and Help
Why Suicide Reporting Guidelines Matter (NAMI) "The fact is: how we talk about, write about and report on suicide matters. For someone already considering suicide, it’s possible to change their thoughts into action by exposing them to detailed suicide-related content, including graphic depictions or explanations of the death or revealing the method used."

Reporting About Suicide The Trevor Project (CDC, National Prevention Information Network) Recommendations for reporting on suicide, 2017) Instead of X, do Y (an excellent chart). For example, instead of Big or sensationalistic headlines, or prominent placement--(e.g., “Kurt Cobain Used Shotgun to Commit Suicide”), inform the audience without sensationalizing the suicide and minimize prominence (e.g., “Kurt Cobain Dead at 27”)

Medical bills related to suicide aren’t covered by some insurers, despite rules (Michelle Andrews, Kaiser Health News and PBS NewsHour, 2-18-14) Dealing with the aftermath of a suicide or attempted suicide is stressful enough. But some health plans make a harrowing experience worse by refusing to cover medical costs for injuries that are related to suicide—even though experts say that in many cases such exclusions aren’t permitted under federal law. Yet patients or their loved ones often don’t realize that.
      "Under the 2006 federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) rules, employment-based health plans can’t discriminate against an individual member by denying eligibility for benefits or charging more because they have a particular medical condition such as diabetes or depression. Insurers, however, are allowed to deny coverage for all members for injuries caused by a specific activity or for those that arise from a particular cause spelled out in the policy. These are called “source-of-injury” exclusions."
Suicide Contagion and the Reporting of Suicide: Recommendations from a National Workshop (CDC) Detailed recommendations for the press.

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Tributes to Robert Gottlieb, legendary editor

What made him such a great editor?  Obits and other tributes provide some insights.

Robert Gottlieb, editor of literary heavyweights, dies at 92 (Michael S. Rosenwald, Washington Post, 6-14-23) He had an unassuming approach to his work but was considered a virtuoso in the field. Toni Morrison, Joseph Heller and Robert Caro were among Mr. Gottlieb’s many writers in a career spanning nearly 70 years. He edited with a pencil and unparalleled devotion.
---Robert Gottlieb, Eminent Editor From le Carré to Clinton, Dies at 92 (Robert D. McFadden, NY Times, 6-14-23) Avid reader, reluctant writer. At Simon & Schuster, Alfred A. Knopf and The New Yorker, he polished the work of a who’s who of mid-to-late 20th century writers. “I have never encountered a publisher or editor with a greater understanding of what a writer was trying to do — and how to help him do it,” Mr. Caro said in a statement on Mr. Gottlieb’s death.“The editor’s relationship to a book should be an invisible one,” Mr. Gottlieb told The Paris Review in 1994. “The last thing anyone reading ‘Jane Eyre’ would want to know, for example, is that I had convinced Charlotte Brontë that the first Mrs. Rochester should go up in flames.”
---Robert Gottlieb, celebrated editor of Toni Morrison and Robert Caro, has died at 92 (Associated Press, NPR, 6-14-23) Tall and assured, with wavy dark hair and dark-rimmed glasses, Gottlieb had one of the greatest runs of any editor after World War II and helped shape the modern publishing canon. Gottlieb's reputation was made during his time as editor-in-chief of Simon & Schuster and later Alfred A. Knopf, where in recent years he worked as an editor-at-large. But he also edited The New Yorker for five years before departing over "conceptual differences" with publisher S.I. Newhouse and was himself an accomplished prose stylist.
---Remembering Robert Gottlieb, Editor Extraordinaire (David Remnick, New Yorker, 6-26-23) At Knopf and The New Yorker, Gottlieb was an editor of unexampled accomplishment—someone who seemed to have read everything worth reading and to have published a fair amount of it, too.
---Robert Gottlieb, legendary editor who championed Joseph Heller, Robert Caro and Chaim Potok, dies at 92 (Andrew Silow-Carroll, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 6-15-23) Robert Gottlieb, the legendary literary editor who shepherded into print and best-sellerdom such 20th-century classics as Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22,” Robert Caro’s “The Power Broker” and Chaim Potok’s “The Chosen,” died Wednesday at age 92. Photo caption: The editor Robert Gottlieb (right) and author Robert Caro appear in the 2022 documentary, "Turn Every Page."

---Remembering Robert Gottlieb: Biographer and Friend (Sydney Stern, BIO International,
---Robert Gottlieb, The Art of Editing No. 1 (Interviewed by Larissa MacFarquhar, Paris Review, Fall 1994)
---Remembering Robert Gottlieb: The Virtuoso Editor and Publisher (Will Swift, BIO International) 'Using a pencil to markup manuscripts for nearly 70 years, he served as the editor-in-chief at Simon and Schuster, Alfred A. Knopf, and The New Yorker. Arguably the best-read man of the 20th and 21st century, he read up to 16 hours a day and edited, by his own estimation, approximately 700 books. What was his secret formula? “I don’t have lunches, dinners, go to plays or movies,” he explained to The Washington Post, “I don’t mediate, escalate, deviate or have affairs.” '

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Fake news and media literacy

gathered by Pat McNees, originally published December 2016


Youth Voice, Authorship, & Democracy: Unpacking Media Literacy with Dr. Renee Hobbs (Sara Falluji, Beyond the Classroom, KSTV, The New Edu, 7-19-23) The "fake news crisis and the rise of disinformation have fueled a lot of interest in media literacy, because we've got misinformation being shared on social media and political campaigns. We've got misinformation about vaccines. We've got misinformation about climate change; about the economy. We've got misinformation intentionally spread for political purposes in ways that are harmful to people's understanding of reality.
      "In the context of school and schooling, media literacy comes in through the changing nature of literacy– literacy is not just reading and writing. It's speaking and listening and creating media and analyzing media. More and more English teachers are recognizing that it's as important to critically analyze a film as it is to critically analyze a work of literature. It's as important to critically analyze an article in The New York Times as it is to critically analyze a work of photojournalism."

How social media took us from Tahrir Square to Donald Trump (Zeynep Tufekci, MIT Technology Review, 8-14-18) To understand how digital technologies went from instruments for spreading democracy to weapons for attacking it, you have to look beyond the technologies themselves. “The problem is that when we encounter opposing views in the age and context. It’s like hearing them from the opposing team while sitting with our fellow fans in a football stadium. Online, we’re connected with our communities, and we seek approval from our like-minded peers. We bond with our team by yelling at the fans of the other one.” In his analysis, Tufekci explains five factors. [I urge you to read the full article, and risk exceeding "fair use" here because this long article spells out so clearly weaknesses in our digital world that can and have been exploited.] 

     1. The euphoria of discovery: social media as "breaking down what social scientists call 'pluralistic ignorance'—the belief that one is alone in one's views when in reality everyone has been collectively silenced. That, I said, was why social media had fomented so much rebellion: people who were previously isolated in their dissent found and drew strength from one another."

     2. The audacity of hope: "Barack Obama's election in 2008 as the first African-American president of the United States had prefigured the Arab Spring's narrative of technology empowering the underdog....There were laudatory articles about Barack Obama's use of voter profiling and microtargeting....[but] microtargeting, especially on Facebook, could be used to wreak havoc with the public sphere.... It was true that social media let dissidents know they were not alone, but online microtargeting could also create a world in which you wouldn't know what messages your neighbors were getting or how the ones aimed at you were being tailored to your desires and vulnerabilities."

     3. The illusion of immunity: "There doesn't seem to have been a major realization within the US's institutions—its intelligence agencies, its bureaucracy, its electoral machinery—that true digital security required both better technical infrastructure and better public awareness about the risks of hacking, meddling, misinformation, and more. The US's corporate dominance and its technical wizardry in some areas seemed to have blinded the country to the brewing weaknesses in other, more consequential ones."

     4. The power of the platforms: "In that context, the handful of giant US social-media platforms seem to have been left to deal as they saw fit with what problems might emerge. Unsurprisingly, they prioritized their stock prices and profitability. Throughout the years of the Obama administration, these platforms grew boisterously and were essentially unregulated. They spent their time solidifying their technical chops for deeply surveilling their users, so as to make advertising on the platforms ever more efficacious. In less than a decade, Google and Facebook became a virtual duopoly in the digital ad market." Discussion of how digital tools have figured significantly in political upheavals around the world in the past few years, and how a reality TV star came along and took advantage of Twitter.

     5. The lessons of the era

     "First, the weakening of old-style information gatekeepers (such as media, NGOs, and government and academic institutions), while empowering the underdogs, has also, in another way, deeply disempowered underdogs. Dissidents can more easily circumvent censorship, but the public sphere they can now reach is often too noisy and confusing for them to have an impact...The old gatekeepers blocked some truth and dissent, but they blocked many forms of misinformation too

      "Second, the new, algorithmic gatekeepers...make their money by keeping people on their sites and apps...succeed by fueling mistrust and doubt, as long as the clicks keep coming.

      "Third, the loss of gatekeepers has been especially severe in local journalism....The Russian operatives who created fake local media brands across the US either understood the hunger for local news or just lucked into this strategy. Without local checks and balances, local corruption grows and trickles up to feed a global corruption wave playing a major part in many of the current political crises.

       "Fourth, "While algorithms will often feed people some of what they already want to hear, research shows that we probably encounter a wider variety of opinions online than we do offline, or than we did before the advent of digital tools....Online, we're connected with our communities, and we seek approval from our like-minded peers....In sociology terms, we strengthen our feeling of "in-group" belonging by increasing our distance from and tension with the "out-group"—us versus them. Our cognitive universe isn't an echo chamber, but our social one is....This is also how Russian operatives fueled polarization in the United States..."

       Fifth, "Russia exploited the US's weak digital security—its "nobody but us" mind-set—to subvert the public debate around the 2016 election. The hacking and release of e-mails from the Democratic National Committee and the account of Clinton campaign manager John Podesta amounted to a censorship campaign, flooding conventional media channels with mostly irrelevant content."  

‘Belonging Is Stronger Than Facts’: The Age of Misinformation (Max Fisher, The Interpreter, NY Times, 5-7-21) Social and psychological forces are combining to make the sharing and believing of misinformation an endemic problem with no easy solution. Have you heard that President Biden plans to force Americans to eat less meat; that Virginia is eliminating advanced math in schools to advance racial equality; and that border officials are mass-purchasing copies of Vice President Kamala Harris’s book to hand out to refugee children? Some believe the drivers of misinformation today are social and psychological forces that make people prone to sharing and believing misinformation in the first place.
      "People become more prone to misinformation when three things happen.

      "First, and perhaps most important, is when conditions in society make people feel a greater need for what social scientists call ingrouping — a belief that their social identity is a source of strength and superiority, and that other groups can be blamed for their problems....In times of perceived conflict or social change, we seek security in groups. And that makes us eager to consume information, true or not, that lets us see the world as a conflict putting our righteous ingroup against a nefarious outgroup."
      The second factor: "the emergence of high-profile political figures who encourage their followers to indulge their desire for identity-affirming misinformation. After all, an atmosphere of all-out political conflict often benefits those leaders, at least in the short term, by rallying people behind them."
      The "third factor — a shift to social media, which is a powerful outlet for composers of disinformation, a pervasive vector for misinformation itself and a multiplier of the other risk factors.... “When you post things, you’re highly aware of the feedback that you get, the social feedback in terms of likes and shares,” Dr. William J. Brady said. Research demonstrates that people who get positive feedback for posting inflammatory or false statements become much more likely to do so again in the future. “You are affected by that."

­Most Americans favor restrictions on false information, violent content online (Christopher St. Aubin and Jacob Liedke, Pew Research, 7-20-23) Most Americans say the U.S. government and technology companies should each take steps to restrict false information and extremely violent content online. But there is more support for tech companies moderating these types of content than for the federal government doing so, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. This increase in support comes amid public debates about online content regulation and court cases that look at how tech companies moderate content on their platforms. And yet:

Big Tech rolls back misinformation measures ahead of 2024 (Sara Fischer, Axios,6-6-23) Ahead of the 2024 election cycle, the world's largest tech companies are walking back policies meant to curb misinformation around COVID-19 and the 2020 election.

    YouTube last week confirmed that it will reverse its election integrity policy to leave up content that says fraud, errors or glitches occurred in the 2020 presidential election.

    Meta reinstated the Instagram account of Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who was removed from the platform in 2021 for posting misinformation about COVID.

    Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center and founder of Factcheck.org, argued that with a few exceptions — including health threats and real-time incitement of violence — fact-checking is a stronger antidote to misinformation than blocking speech. The best solution, she argues, is to "flood the zone with the best available information, make sure that when the misinformation gets up there, you've got corrective context with good information up next to it."

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****Catalogue of all projects working to solve Misinformation and Disinformation (Shane Greenup, MisinfoCon, 6-9-18)

Starts with The Disinformation Index (rating the probability of a source carrying disinformation).
MisinfoCon ( a community of people focused on the challenge of #misinformation & what can be done to address it. Events so far at MIT, London and Kyiv--DC in August)
rbutr (tells you when the webpage you are viewing has been disputed, rebutted or contradicted elsewhere on the internet).Get the plugin.
Credibility Coalition An interdisciplinary community committed to improving our information ecosystems and media literacy through transparent and collaborative exploration. Tackling the misinformation problem successfully will require a holistic approach, with reputation systems, fact-checking, media literacy, revenue models, and public feedback all helping to address the health of the information ecosystem."
Teaching in the Age of Trump (Andrea Rinard, Medium, 7-13-18) Five tenets for navigating alternative facts and ad hominem attacks in the classroom:

1. Kids need to learn how to be more responsible and canny media consumers.

2. We must create safe spaces and insist on civility. And so on, with stories from the classroom.
How and why to spot and identify fake news (Pat McNees, Writers and Editors)
Faking News: Fraudulent News and the Fight for Truth (PDF, PEN America report, 10-12-17) Invaluable.
How to squash fake news without trampling free speech (Callum Borchers, WashPost, 10-12-17) About the PEN report and its findings and recommendations.
Ten Questions for Fake News Detection (The News Literacy Project, or NLP)
The Best Tools To Help Develop Global Media Literacy (Larry Ferlazzo, 3-12-09)
Blue Feed, Red Feed Liberal and conservative views on the same topic, side by side. Try "Trump," for example.
The Learning Network (New York Times web-based lessons in media literacy)
6 types of misinformation circulated this election season (Claire Wardle, Columbia Journalism Review, 11-18-16) She discusses and gives examples of
     1. Authentic material used in the wrong context.
     2. Imposter news sites designed to look like brands we already know.
     3. Fake news sites.
     4. Fake information.
     5. Manipulated content.
     6. Parody content.

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To Fix Fake News, Look To Yellow Journalism (Alexandra Samuel, JStor Daily, 11-29-16) How The Internet Ruined Everything (Or Did It? Social media critics have been quick to blame Facebook and the spread of "fake news" for the election upset. But poorly researched and downright dishonest reporting has been undermining the first amendment since the early days of journalism. Click journalism has plenty of precedents in the history of mass media, and particularly, in the history of American journalism. A good starting point on this topic.

Skewed: A Critical Thinker's Guide to Media Bias by Larry Atkins, as reviewed on Philly.com: 'Skewed': How to be your own filter in the Web universe . "Atkins, a longtime adjunct professor of journalism at Temple University, Arcadia University, and Montgomery County Community College, lays out the difference between "clear and balanced" news and advocacy journalism. He highlights the urgency for media consumers to recognize this difference." Not that all advocacy journalism is bad -- it can also involve solid investigative journalism but then come down on a side: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson is an example of advocating to advocate to expose corruption or harm. Here are Atkins' main points (HuffPost, 12-6-16)

After Comet Ping Pong and Pizzagate, teachers tackle fake news (Moriah Balingit, WaPo, 12-11-16) For conspiracy theorists, "pizzagate" didn't end when a man brought a gun to Comet Ping Pong in Washington in a misguided attempt to rescue child sex slaves. Instead, the shooting fired up further belief in the baseless claims.
A century ago, progressives were the ones shouting ‘fake news’ (Matthew Jordan, The Conversation, 2-1-18) As a rhetorical strategy for eroding trust in the media, the term dates back to the end of the 19th century. Righteous "muckrakers were usually the ones deploying the term. They sought to challenge the growing numbers of powerful newspapers that were concocting fake stories to either sell papers or advance the interests of their corporate benefactors."

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House ethics committee warns lawmakers against posting deepfakes (Emily Birnbaum, The Hill, 1-29-20) The House Ethics Committee issued a memo warning lawmakers that they may violate Congress’s Code of Official Conduct if they post “deep fakes,” or distorted videos that operate as a technologically sophisticated form of disinformation. The warning comes soon after Rep. Paul Gosar, of Arizona, re-tweeted an edited photo falsely depicting President Obama meeting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Journalists can change the way they build stories to create organic news fluency (Tom Rosenstiel and Jane Elizabeth, White Paper for American Press Institute, 5-9-18)  "We propose a new way of creating journalism that helps audiences become more fluent and more skilled consumers of news the more they consume it....imagine a format or presentation that, alongside the story, poses some key questions a discriminating or "fluent" news consumer might ask to decide what to make of the story." They might ask: What is new here? What evidence is there? What sources did you talk to and when? What facts don't we know yet? What, if anything, is still in dispute? ...Imagine if more journalists were to raise and answer these questions in an element placed at the top of the narrative."

    Is teaching news literacy a journalist's job? Yes. Here's a way to build stories that can show people the difference between good and bad journalism and outright fakery. The first step is thinking about — and asking — what questions audiences may have about a story and then providing those answers explicitly. That step guides the journalist into a new and important mindset of putting themselves in the audience’s shoes.

      The authors of this white paper present templates for building news fluency for nine news categories — standard news stories, non-investigative projects, investigations, Read More 

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The End of Affirmative Action?

With updates.


The Decision That Upends the Equal-Protection Clause (Adam Harris, The Atlantic, 6-29-23) 'Legally, the decision is a landmark, taking a tool—the Fourteenth Amendment—meant to prevent discrimination against Black Americans in a post–Civil War landscape and turning it on its head, into a guarantor of a “race neutral” approach.'...In this case, the Court took Justice John Marshall Harlan’s dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson, that “our Constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens,” to upend that historical purpose, a result that Justice Thurgood Marshall had in some ways predicted four decades ago. “It would be the cruelest irony for this Court to adopt the dissent in Plessy now and hold that the University must use color-blind admissions,” Marshall wrote.'

     "The term affirmative action first came into the federal lexicon in 1961, when President John F. Kennedy issued Executive Order 10925, aimed at banning discrimination in the federal government and diversifying its workforce. In short order, colleges—which had become subject to enhanced federal antidiscrimination laws after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Higher Education Act of 1965—began to implement affirmative-action programs to build up their enrollment of students from historically marginalized communities."

Affirmative action in the United States (Wikipedia) An overview of the history (legal and otherwise) of this issue in the United States, arguments for and against it, its implementation, complaints and lawsuits, and public opinion on the issue. 'In general, "affirmative action" is supported by the general public, but "considerations based on race" are opposed.'

A New Legal Blitz on Affirmative Action (Liam Knox, Inside Higher Education, 9-20-23) Challenges to race-conscious policies are surging in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling against affirmative action, including a new lawsuit against West Point. Students for Fair Admissions, the group that spearheaded the Supreme Court cases against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina, filed a lawsuit challenging the race-conscious admissions policies of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. The organization is also revisiting lawsuits that were stayed pending the outcome of the Harvard and UNC cases (those against Yale, the University of Texas at Austin, and others).

Ketanji Brown Jackson Torches Clarence Thomas for Bulls--t Take on Affirmative Action (Bess Levin, Levin Report, Vanity Fair, 6-29-23) The Supreme Court’s conservative majority effectively ended affirmative action, and dissenting Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson chided her "conservative colleagues, one of whom has a well documented history of being anti-affirmative action—of straight up being racist." She accused them of "not having an earthly clue—or having one and just not giving a f--k—about the history and impact of racism in this country, which persists today, and which Thursday’s decision will only make worse."

The Court Unleashed (The Weekly Sift, 7-3-23) "Until this week, the final week of its annual term, the Supreme Court seemed to be backing away from the rogue behavior of last year, in which it had repeatedly ignored precedent, invented fanciful readings of history, and generally found excuses to go wherever its right-wing ideology might lead.
       "Recall that last year, the Court didn’t merely eliminate abortion rights, its logic in Dobbs rejected the doctrine of substantive due process, potentially setting up the elimination of all rights that rely on that doctrine: same-sex marriage, access to birth control, the right of consenting adults to choose their own expressions of sexuality, and many others. In Bruen, it not only threw out a century-old New York State gun control law, it cast doubt on all gun-control laws that are not “consistent with the Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation” as Justice Thomas interprets that history.
     "Until this week, the final week of its annual term, the Supreme Court seemed to be backing away from the rogue behavior of last year, in which it had repeatedly ignored precedent, invented fanciful readings of history, and generally found excuses to go wherever its right-wing ideology might lead.
       "In the term’s final week, the Court burned its centrist credibility. It ended affirmative action in college admissions (and blew away the justification for any form of affirmative action), shot down the Biden administration’s student-loan forgiveness program, and inserted an enormous loophole into all anti-discrimination laws. This Court is increasingly untethering itself from all traditional restraints on judicial power."

On Race and Academia (John McWhorter newsletter, for NY Times subscribers, 7-4-23) "As an academic who is also Black, I have seen up close, over decades, what it means to take race into account....I will never shake the sentiment I felt on those committees, an unintended byproduct of what we could call academia’s racial preference culture: that it is somehow ungracious to expect as much of Black students — and future teachers — as we do of others. That kind of assumption has been institutionalized within academic culture for a long time....the decision to stop taking race into account in admissions, assuming it is accompanied by other efforts to assist the truly disadvantaged, is, I believe, the right one to make."

‘There Was Definitely a Thumb on the Scale to Get Boys’ (Susan Dominus, NY Times Magazine, 9-8-23) Declining male enrollment has led many colleges to adopt an unofficial policy: affirmative action for men.

Is College Worth It? (The Daily podcast , 9-20-23) Podcast and transcript. The new economics of higher education makes going to college a risky bet.
        See also Americans Are Losing Faith in the Value of College. Whose Fault Is That? (Paul Tough, NY Times, 9-5-23) Outside the United States, meanwhile, higher education is more popular than ever. What changed in the last decade to make a college education — and higher education as an institution — so unappealing to so many Americans? The college wage premium: How much you owe for going to college. How much net wealth does a typical college graduate accumulate over their life span, compared with that of a typical high school graduate? Millennials with college degrees are earning a good bit more than those without, but they aren’t accumulating any more wealth. The likely culprit: cost--the rising expense of college and the student debt that often goes along with it. Since 1992, the sticker price has almost doubled for four-year private colleges and more than doubled for four-year public colleges, even after adjusting for inflation. And In a 2017 Gallup poll, the No. 1 reason Republicans gave for their declining faith in higher ed was that colleges had become “too liberal/political.”

Supreme Court Rejects Affirmative Action Programs at Harvard and U.N.C. (Stephanie Saul, NY Times, 6-29-23) The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected affirmative action at colleges and universities around the nation, declaring that the race-conscious admissions programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina were unlawful and sharply curtailing a policy that had long been a pillar of higher education. In earlier decisions, the court had endorsed taking account of race as one factor among many to promote educational diversity. Justice Sonia Sotomayor summarized her dissent from the bench, a rare move that signals profound disagreement, and said that affirmative action was crucial to countering persistent and systematic racial discrimination.

Harvard’s Admissions Is Challenged for Favoring Children of Alumni (Stephanie Saul, NY Times, 7-3-23) After the Supreme Court banned race-conscious affirmative action, activists filed a complaint, saying legacy admissions helped students who are overwhelmingly rich and white. Harvard’s special admissions treatment for students whose parents are alumni, or whose relatives donated money, has been called affirmative action for the rich, and in a complaint filed on Monday, a legal activist group demanded that the federal government put an end to it, arguing that fairness was even more imperative after the Supreme Court last week severely limited race-conscious admissions.

Heather Cox Richaradson, 6-29-23)" If this fight sounds political, it should. It mirrors the current political climate in which right-wing activists reject the idea of systemic racism that the U.S. has acknowledged and addressed in the law since the 1950s. They do not believe that the Fourteenth Amendment supports the civil rights legislation that tries to guarantee equality for historically marginalized populations, and in today’s decision the current right-wing majority on the court demonstrated that it is willing to push that political agenda at the expense of settled law. As recently as 2016, the court reaffirmed that affirmative action, used since the 1960s, is constitutional. Today’s court just threw that out."

To be continued...

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