News, media outlets need to be transparent with the American public about fact errors

The Washington Post published a story on Dec. 30 regarding a recent Russian hack into a Vermont utility. According to the headline and story, the assailants successfully hacked into the U.S. government power grid.

However, a fact check revealed that this was false, and the server that was hacked was not connected to the power grid.

After the article was published, the Washington Post edited this error in a timely manner–two hours later. However, the website made edits without adding any indication that the article was changed.

Because of this error, those who read the article before it was edited would have no idea that certain facts were incorrect and misleading. If they returned to reread the article, they might not even notice that anything had changed.

The situation presented a unique ethical dilemma. Should websites be clear to readers when changes in content have been made?

Certain publications, such as Forbes, criticized the Washington Post for the way they handled the situation, and referenced the concept of fake news.

Fake news, or rather unverified falsehoods presented as facts, is a concept seen primarily in particular website types, like blogs. A large ethical concern arises, though, when large, heavily read news outlets contribute to fake news.

Forbes expressed their concern regarding large media outlets participating in fake news, and said “false and misleading news can ricochet through the global news echo chamber through the pages of top tier newspapers that fail to properly verify their facts.”

If large news outlets contribute to fake news, where can the public go to find reliable facts? Although the Washington Post corrected their mistake, many believe that outlets have a duty to ensure the public knows when mistakes were made, at the beginning of the article.

Due to accountability, the Washington Post should have publicly apologized for the mistake, and added an editor’s note at the beginning of the article explaining the mistake.

Mistakes in accuracy and fact checking are large offenses, but when handled tastefully, media outlets can still retain their credibility.

In the fact-paced world of media, outlets can sometimes publish stories quickly without fact checking and verifying sources. Because of this, mistakes are somewhat inevitable. However, in order to retain the trust between journalists and the public, news outlets must own up to their mistakes, and also provide proper updates when new information breaks out.

The Washington Post has since published an Editor’s Note on the article, explaining, “An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the U.S. electric grid. Authorities say there is no indication of that so far. The computer at Burlington Electric that was hacked was not attached to the grid.”

Due to either controversy or the need to correct their mistake, the Washington Post offered this note to clarify the information to its readers. However, some believe that harm was already done with their initial decision to not add an Editor’s Note.



Rachel Maddow displays journalistic integrity, unique voice

My biggest role model in terms of communications and journalism is Rachel Maddow. Her show, The Rachel Maddow Show, is much different from the other forms of media I consume, through its use of personal commentary and analysis.

As opposed to news, Maddow uses her skills as a political analyst to dive deeper, and explore new depths in relevant political and popular culture topics. I really enjoy watching her show after reading the news that day, to see her unique perspectives on issues.

While her show is not a replacement for straight news, the show is extremely enjoyable to watch because of her distinct voice, guest interviewees from all political perspectives and even discussions about relevant pop culture occurrences.

The Rachel Maddow Show has a clear, intended audience and bias, which is more left leaning. However, it is not advertised as a news show, but rather a political-based talk show.

Although the show is clearly left leaning, her use of investigating and fact checking to create her own arguments shows journalistic integrity, which I hope to emulate in my own work. She also uses guests who represent various viewpoints on the political spectrum, which helps create balance.

I believe it is important to consume news from a multitude of different avenues, to see a fuller picture. However, it’s very comforting to watch at least one show that reflects your genuine beliefs and interests. For me, The Rachel Maddow Show serves that specific purpose.

Other than the content she presents, I also enjoy Maddow’s broadcast skills and the way she delivers stories. She was a very clear voice that is distinct and her own. I think that’s extremely important, for both written and broadcast journalists, to create a clear voice in their work.

Maddow truly inspires me to be analytical in my approach to investigating, diligent in fact checking and unique in my voice and presentation.

Buzzfeed’s “Dear Kitten” draws viewers in with its witty charm, natural product placement

Whether or not you identify as a “dog person” or a “cat person,” it’s nearly impossible not to instantly melt at the antics and clumsy movements of a kitten.

Scenes of a kitten adjusting to his new home, accompanied by the humorous banter and “teachings” from his older cat housemate, conjoin to form an ad that feels completely natural.

This is precisely why Purina’s newest ad collection, entitled “Dear Kitten,” is so successful. While watching, one forgets that Purina is even trying to persuade them into buying their product. The ad feels more like any other cat video—an archetype that’s been popularized since the beginnings of Youtube—despite the clear agenda of selling Purina brand wet food.

Through pairing with Buzzfeed, Purina was able to reach a very specific audience and demographic: young internet-users attracted to comedy videos.

The voice of the cat narrator is deep, sophisticated, and masculine—which is humorous coming from an adorable cat in and of itself. This narrator describes a number of common household items through tips and detriments, in a completely serious matter. An example of which is the narrator describing a horrible monster, “Vacuum,” which he mispronounces and presents as terrifying and sentient.

Purina does an incredible job appealing to this demographic of Buzzfeed regulars, through speaking through the perspective and point of view of beloved feline friends. By personifying pet cats, viewers subconsciously trust the narrator more—seeing him as an authority regarding a cat’s well being. Although the viewer inherently knows it’s not a real cat speaking, the antics and behaviors presented throughout the video show a great understanding of cats that feels trustworthy.

The older cat expresses to the audience that there are two types of food: boring dry food and the delicious wet food. The advertisement displays that cats know you truly love them if you serve them Purina brand wet food at least once a day.

Subconsciously, cat owners watching this ad may want to buy Purina wet food, in order to show their cats how much they love them.

Furthermore, upon watching this ad, viewers associate Purina as a company with these positive associations of humor and cuteness, and internalize memories of Purina for future reference. If the viewers have a cat or one day adopt one, the positive associations of Purina may persuade them to buy Purina cat food if they see it at the store while shopping.