On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Times and others published what can only be called a blacklist of sites compiled by Melissa Zimdars, an assistant professor of communication at Merrimack College in Massachusetts. The list includes well-known “fake” sites like National Report, The Onion and the Daily Currant. But the list also includes several well-known and trafficked sites like Breitbart.com, the Daily Wire, the Independent Journal Review, Twitchy and Liberty Unyielding.
Alex Jones’ Infowars also made the list as did The Blaze and RedState.
According to Jessica Roy, many “of the sites on the list are aggregators – they take news stories from other sources and rewrite them with more inflammatory headlines and without contextual facts.”
Really? You mean headlines like “Want to keep fake news out of your newsfeed? College professor creates list of sites to avoid,” which, by the way, happens to be the headline topping Roy’s article. The implication is clear: All of these sites are FAKE, even though she admits some aren’t.
Writing at the Daily Wire, John Nolte said:
Also on this Blacklist are InfoWars, Breitbart News, Red State, The Blaze, and ZeroHedge. Oddly enough, their left-wing counterparts, like Raw Story, Talking Points Memo and The Huffington Post, did not make the cut.
In other words, The Daily Wire, and a number of other perfectly legitimate right-leaning outlets that dare to challenge the status quo, are now being lumped in with the “The Onion” as spreaders of Fake News.
We can all see what’s going on here, correct?
Sure we do. Especially given that this list comes on the heels of a report that Google and Facebook are working to keep ads off of “fake” news sites.
Zimdars explained the four categories of sites on her Google document:
CATEGORY 1: Below is a list of fake, false, or regularly misleading websites that are shared on Facebook and social media. Some of these websites may rely on “outrage” by using distorted headlines and decontextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits. These websites are categorized with the number 1 next to them.
CATEGORY 2: Some websites on this list may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information, and they are marked with a 2.
CATEGORY 3: Other websites on this list sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions, and they are marked with a 3.
CATEGORY 4: Other sources on this list are purposefully fake with the intent of satire/comedy, which can offer important critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be shared as actual/literal news. I’m including them here, for now, because 1.) they have the potential to perpetuate misinformation based on different audience (mis)interpretations and 2.) to make sure anyone who reads a story by The Onion, for example, understands its purpose. If you think this is unnecessary, please see Literally Unbelievable.
Breitbart was marked with a 2 and a 3, meaning that Zimdars thinks the site is unreliable and uses “clickbaity” headlines.
The National Report, a well-known satire site, had no designation whatsoever. Neither did the reliable conservative site Liberty Unyielding.
Howard Portnoy wrote:
Wow, what a distinction! LU hasn’t been so honored since we made the list of top conservative websites in 2015.
This time, the conferee is Melissa (“Mish”) Zimdars, an assistant professor of communication and media at Merrimack College in North Andover, Mass. We learn from Mish’s faculty profile that “when she’s not researching and teaching, Dr. Zimdars has a radio show on Merrimack College’s station, WMCK, and spends a lot of time going to shows in the Boston area, listening to records, and eating fried foods that she should probably avoid.”
Maybe all that dietary fat is dulling her senses since her list, titled “False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical ‘News’ Sources,” attempts to codify entries using a numerical code but then stops short of applying said code to every site named. I can’t say, therefore, which of the named offenses she believes LU to be guilty of.
According to the many mainstream media sources that have picked up Zimdars’s list, which include the Los Angeles Times, station KMOV in St. Louis promises that Zimdars has only begun to fight and that she “is is [sic] reviewing hundreds of other websites and news organizations, including the popular Huffington Post.” You might be wondering why the HuffPo failed to make the first cut, but if so, you may want to cut down on the fried food, yourself.
(Note: I’ve had a chance to correspond with Portnoy about this, and I must say, so far he’s been much more gracious about this than I would have been.)
Zimdars further noted:
I will be updating the categorizations and adding links gradually through the next couple of days.
Many of the websites on this list continue to offer valuable journalism and/or satirical commentary. For example, a website included on this list wrote an overall thoughtful piece about the list, but the headline suggests that every source on this list is fake, which misrepresents the list. Finally, I do not condone plug-ins that automatically block any of the websites listed below. And as a reminder, not all of the sources listed below should be considered fake.
It should be noted that she added this dislaimer at the top, perhaps in an effort to protect herself from potential legal action: ” All of the contents in this document reflect the opinion of the author and are for educational purposes only.”
It’s not known at this time what action, if any, site owners intend to take against Zimdars or the media outlets that published this list. We’ll update you when we hear something.
As a final note, we reached out to Ms. Roy to find out if she personally reviewed the sites on Zimdars’ list, or if she simply took her at her word. So far, we have not received a response.
Color us not surprised.
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