Changes to the Associated Press style guide

Accent marks: Accent marks can now be used with people’s names when they ask for it, are known to use them or if quoting from a language that uses them.

Casualties: Avoid the word because it is vague and can refer to either injuries or deaths. Instead, be specific.

Cocktail: Don’t use in reference to a mixture of drugs. Instead, use "drug combination" or simply drugs or medications.

Data: Now takes a singular verb and pronoun except in academic and scientific papers. In data journalism contexts: The data is sound. However, in scientific and academic writing, plural verbs and pronouns are preferred.

Hyphens: No longer use hyphens for African American, Filipino American, and compounds as “third-grade teacher” and “chocolate-chip cookie.” When using compound adjectives formed with “well” (suspensive hyphenation) such as well known, well fed, well dressed, hyphenate before the noun but not after. Do not use a hyphen with double-“E” combinations such as “preelection,” “preeminent,” “preempt,” “reenter,” etc.  

Latinx: The use of gender-neutral Latinx “should be confined to quotations, names of organizations or descriptions of individuals who request it and should be accompanied by a short explanation.

Marijuana: Pot or cannabis is OK on the second reference.  Dispensary employees are budtenders.  

Percentage: The percentage sign is OK to use with a numeral (no space between) instead of writing out “percent” or “percentage.” Example: “His mortgage rate is 4.75%.” For amounts less than 1%, precede the decimal with a zero: Example: “The cost of living rose 0.6%.” 

In the early part of the 20th century, a common rendering was “per cent.,” two words with a period after the “cent,” possibly because it was abbreviating the Italian “per cento.” The first formal AP stylebook, in 1953, called for “per cent,” and that stuck at least through the 1970 stylebook. By 1977, though, it had come together as “percent.” That’s common in the United States, though British English leans towards “per cent.”

            Merrill Perlman writing in the Columbia Journalism Review 

Race: Whether a subject is black or white need not be reported unless it’s pertinent to the story. Avoid calling someone “a black” or “a white.” Limit the use of the terms “blacks” and “whites” as plurals. Black and white are acceptable as adjectives when relevant.

Racism: OK to use “racist” or “racism” instead of euphemisms like "racially charged."

(sic): Do not use (sic) to show that quoted material or person’s words include a misspelling, incorrect grammar or peculiar usage. If it has to be explained, explain it outside the quotation, or just paraphrase the quotation.

Split infinitives: OK to use. Avoid awkward constructions (to leave, to help, etc.) or compound forms (had left, are found out, etc.).

Suspect: Avoid when talking about a person of unknown identity who committed a crime. Correct: Police said the robber stole 14 diamond rings; the thief ran away. Incorrect: Police said the suspect stole 14 diamond rings; the suspect ran away. Correct: Police arrested the suspect the next day. Incorrect: Police arrested the robber the next day.

More info:

A full list of the changes here.

AP Stylebook adds new umbrella entry for race-related coverage, issues new hyphen guidance and other changes ACES

Previewing a new edition of the AP Stylebook

Dropped Hyphens, Split Infinitives, and Other Thrilling Developments from the 2019 American Copy Editors Society Conference New Yorker

AP Stylebook update: It’s OK to call something racist when it’s racist Poynter

AP says the percentage sign now OK when used with a numeral (that’s shift+5) Poynter

What Makes People Susceptible to Fake News

Susceptibility to fake news is driven more by lazy thinking than by partisan bias. Which on one hand sounds—let's be honest—pretty bad. But it also implies that getting people to be more discerning isn't a lost cause. Changing people's ideologies, which are closely bound to their sense of identity and self, is notoriously difficult. Getting people to think more critically about what they're reading could be a lot easier, by comparison.

Then again, maybe not. 

Anyone who has sat and stared vacantly at their phone while thumb-thumb-thumbing to refresh their Twitter feed, or closed out of Instagram only to re-open it reflexively, has experienced firsthand what it means to browse in such a brain-dead, ouroboric state. Default settings like push notifications, autoplaying videos, algorithmic news feeds—they all cater to humans' inclination to consume things passively instead of actively, to be swept up by momentum rather than resist it. 

This isn't baseless philosophizing; most folks just tend not to use social media to engage critically with whatever news, video, or sound bite is flying past. As one recent study shows, most people browse Twitter and Facebook to unwind and defrag—hardly the mindset you want to adopt when engaging in cognitively demanding tasks.

David Rand—a behavioral scientist at MIT—says he has experiments in the works that investigate whether nudging people to think about the concept of accuracy can make them more discerning about what they believe and share. In the meantime, he suggests confronting fake news espoused by other people not necessarily by lambasting it as fake, but by casually bringing up the notion of truthfulness in a non-political context. You know: just planting the seed. It won't be enough to turn the tide of misinformation. But if our susceptibility to fake news really does boil down to intellectual laziness, it could make for a good start.

Robbie Gonzalez writing in Wired Magazine 

47 Fake News Signals: Part 6 of 7

KNOW YOUR OWN WEAKNESSES

These biases are broad tendencies, rather than fixed traits or universal behavioral laws. They are not uniformly shared by everyone. Plus, there are multiple influences resulting in a given behavior. 

1. FALSE MEMORIES. Studies have shown we are susceptible to false memories. We selectively remember our own experiences, much less historical and cultural events. Planting fake memories has become easier these days with AI-enhanced photo and video forgeries on the internet. 

2. CONFIRMATION BIAS. We tend to seek information that confirms what we already believe to be true. Ask yourself: Do I want to believe this report, not because it is well sourced and reported, but because it fits with what I already believe?

3. CORRELATION VS CAUSATION. Just because events or statistics have a connection doesn’t mean you can assume one causes the other. 

4. WE OVERVALUE NARRATIVE. Adding a story to a fact increases the likelihood that people will believe it—even when the story narrows the likelihood of it being true. We like tidy stories, not ambiguity.

5. FOOLED BY RANDOMNESS. As the title of Nassim Taleb’s best seller suggests, we are fooled by randomness. Human tend to read meaning into the unexpected and the improbable, even where there is none. 

6. OVERSIMPLIFICATION. To avoid conflict and uncomfortable thinking, we oversimplify to reduce tension. Soon, one side looks good and the other is dismissed as evil. 

7. SUNK COST FALLACY. We hang on to a course of action or idea when we have invested in it, even when circumstances and reasoning show we should abandon it. 

8. GOOGLE-SEARCH RELIANCE. Google is not neutral. When you Google something, the algorithms isn’t weighing facts but other factors, such as your search history. Google tailors your results to what you want—or what the search engine “thinks” you want. Because of this personalization, you are probably getting different results than the person sitting next to you. Be critical of search engines as you are critical of the media. Don’t assume the first link or the first page that comes up when you Google something is the best answer to your question.

Fake News Signals: Part 1 of 7

Fake News Signals: Part 2 of 7

Fake News Signals: Part 3 of 7 

Fake News Signals: Part 4 of 7

Fake New Signals: Part 5 of 7

Fake New Signals: Part 7 of 7

 

47 Fake News Signals: Part 5 of 7

CLUES FROM THE PUBLISHER

36. REPUTATION. Is the writer’s reputation at stake if they are wrong? Does the organization risk loss of reputation or loss of finances if it becomes known for having promoted false news?  

37. RELIABILITY. Has the organization been reliable in the past? Have you read other information from the organization was confirmed to be accurate? 

38. AMATEURISH. Data collected by an amateur is more error-prone than data collected by a professional scientist. Does a quick web search confirm whether the people who collected and organized the data have a good track record of collecting and distributing data.

39. RESPONSE TO CRITICS. Does the publisher respond publicly to its critics when there are reasonable questions? Does it acknowledge when the critics have a point?

40. DATA SOURCES. Look closely at the sources of data the publisher uses: is this material provided by for-profit companies, partisan organizations, or advocacy groups? While it is possible the material is accurate, data from groups with agendas require greater scrutiny than data from nonpartisan organizations. 

41. PAYING THE WRITERS. Content Farms (or Content Mills, if you like) pay very little in return for lots of writing. When news writers are focused on cracking out material to feed the beast, the quality of the work suffers. If you discover a site is considered a Content Farm by professionals or pays writers very little for their work, that’s a big red flag.

42. DIVERSE VOICES. Does the news organization offer diverse perspectives in its articles? A professional outlet will make a concerted effort to give voice to various ethnicities and political persuasions. The more a newsroom focuses on a single viewpoint the greater the likelihood it will leave out significant perspectives from its news converge. 

43. FEEDBACK. Reputable news publishers want readers’ feedback on stories for accuracy and look for help in determining coverage priorities.  

44. AGREEMENT. Do you find yourself agreeing with everything your preferred news outlet says? If so, something is wrong. Find a commentator whose politics don’t match with your own—vary your media consumption to get a balance of perspectives.

45. EASY STORIES. If news outlet overlooks stories worth telling in favor of the stories that can be easily told, it may not have the resources to dive into investigative reporting or may not have the goal of getting beyond low-hanging fruit.

CLUES FROM OUTSIDE THE SITE

46. YOUR COMMUNITY. There’s no substitute for knowing people who are well-informed and will let you know when you’ve posted something questionable. These are people you can ask when you have your doubts. Don’t know any experts researchers, or information junkies from various fields who are critical and helpful? Make some new friends! Developing such a support system is critical for navigating effectively through life. Read some books written by experts.  

47. FACT-CHECKING SITES. Does a fact-checking site identify the assertion of the article as a hoax? Check one of the sites listed at the end of this article or type the topic of the article into a search engine and add “hoax” or “fake.”   

Fake News Signals: Part 1 of 7

Fake News Signals: Part 2 of 7

Fake News Signals: Part 3 of 7 

Fake News Signals: Part 4 of 7

Fake New Signals: Part 6 of 7

Fake New Signals: Part 7 of 7

 

47 Fake News Signals: Part 4 of 7

CLUES FROM THE ADDRESS

22. DOT-GOV. Does the site have a dot-gov address? Generally, data provided by government organizations is trustworthy. 

23. DOT-EDU. Does the site have a dot-edu address? Generally, data provided by university research laboratories is reliable.

24. LO & DOT-CO. Websites ending with odd letters like “lo” (such as “Newslo”) or “.co” could be a red flag for fake news sites.

25.COM.COM. Another way to try to trick readers is to add a “com” so the web address almost looks right. For instance “USATodaycom.com.”

26. COUNRY-CODE TOP-LEVEL DOMAINS. The end of some website addresses is a clue to the site’s originating country. For instance, “dot-au” means the site is based in Australia and  “dot-ng” means the site is based in Nigeria. If you find a supposed article about your community on a website coming from a country far away, it probably means the writer isn’t likely to have access to the necessary sources to write a competent story. 

27. ODD NAMES. Odd domain names generally equal odd and rarely truthful news.

CLUES FROM THE SITE  

28. ABOUT. Check the site’s aboutpage for information about who is behind the operation.  If you aren’t familiar with the name, look for information about who owns it. For instance, the Russian government owns the RT network. What bias you can expect from its news coverage.  

29. DATES. Look for a date on the page to make sure the story is not outdated. Reliable sources want readers to know when the information is posted and will usually have the date clearly displayed near the headline. 

30. WEB DESIGN. Poor web design is a red flag. Is the design out of date when compared to other reputable sites? Is the display navigable and professional?

31. CORRECTIONS. Does the site make corrections as it receives new information and does it make those corrections obvious? Typically, a note will be added to the top or bottom of a news article when even a factual change is made to a story. In a print or broadcast story, the original error should be clearly state along with the correct information.

32. OTHER ARTICLES. Look for information you know to be false in other articles on the site. Does the site offer quality information on other topics besides the one you are investigating.

33. LINKS. More clues can be found by conducting a Goaccess to the original source material so readers can make up their own minds about how it was used. ogle search, using the query “link: website name.” This will indicate what kind of other sites link to the one you are inspecting. If reliable websites refer its readers to the site, that’s a good sign.  

34. COMMUNITY POSTS. Some sites allow bloggers to post pieces under the banner of the news brand (ex: BuzzFeed Community Posts, Kinja blogs, Forbes blogs). The site editors typically do not vet these posts, making the material suspect. 

35. PREVIOUS FAKE NEWS. Do Snopes, Wikipedia, or other such sites show the website in question as having a connection to spreading false information in the past? While Wikipedia is generally pointed in the right direction but can contain some questionable information, the links to other sites it provides can be invaluable in the hunt for truth.  

Fake News Signals: Part 1 of 7

Fake News Signals: Part 2 of 7

Fake News Signals: Part 3 of 7 

Fake New Signals: Part 5 of 7

Fake New Signals: Part 6 of 7

Fake New Signals: Part 7 of 7

 

47 Fake News Signals: Part 3 of 7

CLUES AROUND THE ARTICLE 

14. OUTRAGE HEADLINES. Fake news outlets have found stories that make the reader angry can generate more shares. The use of ALL CAPS is a red flag. 

15. HYPERBOLIC HEADLINES. Hyperbolic headlines, claiming you’ll “never believe” the article’s epic content, suggest you shouldn’t click. 

16. AUTHOR ATTRIBUTION. Lack of author attribution can mean the news story is suspect. Some respected sites, such as The Economist, doesn’t typically identify its writers, but that’s an exception to the rule. Nearly all quality news outlets identify the writer of each article. 

17. AUTHOR CREDENTIALS. Look for other articles by the same author by Googling the person’s name. Have they produced legitimate writing for legitimate news outlets? Their credentials and backgrounds are a guide to the quality of work they are likely to produce as well as the quality of the news outlet you are considering. If the story is about a specialized area, such as health or science, it’s a bonus if the author regularly writes about the subject because the person is also likely to possesses basic knowledge of that particular area.  

18. SUPPORTING PHOTOS. Do accompanying photos visually back up the story’s claims? Do the images even relate to the headline and content?

19. FUNNY PHOTOS. Are photos cropped oddly or taken from some strange angle? Does it appear the photographer was deliberately trying to avoid showing something in the shot? Legit news organizations avoid picking unflattering photos that might bias the reader unless that’s part of the story. This goes for distorted images as well, taken very close to a subject to emphasize someone’s age or physical characteristics. When a site shows a politician or celebrity’s face contorted or just plain goofy in a photo, it’s a subtle attempt to affirm your negative impression of that person and cue you that the article will fit your bias.   

20. MISLEADING GRAPHS. Look closely at any graphs related to an article. Using plot points that misinterpret data can skew the results displayed in the image. Axes should always have labels.

21. BAIT & SWITCH. Reliable websites respect readers by avoiding discrepancies between the headline and the story. Teases designed to trick readers into clicking is a sure sign of a disreputable organization. Reputable sites deliver on the headline’s promise and do not frustrate readers by holding back information in the headline.

Fake News Signals: Part 1 of 7

Fake News Signals: Part 2 of 7

Fake News Signals: Part 4 of 7

Fake New Signals: Part 5 of 7

Fake New Signals: Part 6 of 7

Fake New Signals: Part 7 of 7

 

47 Fake News Signals: Part 1 of 7

Four Kinds of News Sites

1-Quality news brands (like the New York Times and the BBC) have earned their reputations over time as consistently reliable news sources. Savvy news readers don’t expect as much from 2-inconsistent outlets that sometimes show bias but are not “fake” (such as Huffington Post, Fox News). Then there are 3-satirical news sources (The Onion and Clickhole). The articles and videos are intentionally fake but intended to be funny or make a point. They aren’t intended to fool anyone. 4-Fake news sites deliberately fabricate stories. These articles are packaged as legitimate journalism and may mix some truth with outright lies in order to deceivereaders or gain clicks.

Google Searches for “Fake News”

fake news google trends.jpeg

Google Searches for “Fake News” by Region

Google Trends Fake News 2.jpeg

The Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics encourages journalists to “seek truth and report” and “be accountable and transparent” while doing it. Looking for these qualities is an effective way to separate the fake and the real.

What Fake News is Not

Some people will mislabel rumors, hoaxes, and real news stories they don’t like as “fake news.” Another area of confusion are stories that result from mistaken or bad journalism. 

Sometimes CNN, FOX, and Associated Press (AP) all get it wrong. Sometimes new information changes the basic understanding of what is known publicly. You wouldn’t call this fake news since the motivation of posting the original but mistaken information wasn’t to deceive. Cutbacks that leave newsrooms with fewer reporters and editors make it more likely news sites will get it wrong even when they are trying their best to get it right. The shift from legacy media like newspapers to digital has left the news industry scrambling to figure out how to financially support quality journalism.  

Between the pressure to meet quotas and competition with other publications, writers often don’t get the necessary time to craft thoughtful and nuanced stories—or possess the power to reject an assignment over concerns about amplification.

Inaccurate details, such as reporting that four people are dead in a plane crash instead of six, can be the result of an honest mistake. The wrong number might be heard or written down. 

During times of breaking news, information will quickly shift as it trickles into news organizations. It takes time to get a clear picture of what’s happening. Sometimes law enforcement officials or public relations professionals get the story wrong themselves and send out inaccurate information. At those times, news organizations are simply repeating mistakes. This is most likely to happen when there is only one source of information available when a story breaks. 

It’s worth noting that the approach of legacy news organizations (Washington Post, CNN) differs from new media outlets (BuzzFeed News, Politico). Traditional outlets aim at objectivity or neutral-voice reporting, where the focus is on being balanced, keeping the journalist’s opinions out of reports. Many recently launched news sites are more likely to focus on immediacy and transparency over neutrality, as well as updating readers whenever more information is known. Each approach presents different weaknesses for reporters to overcome. 

The bottom line: be skeptical and bring a critical mind with you to everything you read.

Fake News Signals: Part 2 of 7

Fake News Signals: Part 3 of 7 

Fake News Signals: Part 4 of 7

Fake New Signals: Part 5 of 7

Fake New Signals: Part 6 of 7

Fake New Signals: Part 7 of 7