Fancy this: Fox News invites President Joe Biden for a 70-minute prime-time gala packed with progressive supporters who cheer his policies on gun control, climate change and voting rights. What would be the result if Rupert Murdoch condoned this improbable scenario and Sean Hannity gaslit the fuming audience afterward, explaining why viewers benefited from knowing the aims of the opposition?
The result would be a mass exodus from Fox to Newsmax.
Many CNN viewers feel the same way in the aftermath of CNN’s disastrous town hall with former President Donald Trump.
The backlash, covered astutely by Poynter’s Tom Jones, is a lesson for outlets that cotton to a particular political psychographic and then decide to abandon it, failing to retain regular viewers while divining for new ones. This is the case with Chris Licht, CNN’s president, purportedly in pursuit of objectivity.
I can speak with some authority about objectivity. In 2003, The Columbia Journalism Review cited my definition among the best: “Objectivity is seeing the world as it is, not how you wish it were.”
Since 2014, cable news viewers have been seeing the world as they wished it were. They seek affirmation, not information. A Pew Research study concluded that liberals and conservatives “inhabit different worlds” with little overlap in the news they consume and trust.
Among other tendencies, the study found conservatives get political news from a single source, Fox News. Two-thirds say most of their close friends and associates share their views about government and policies.
By contrast, those with liberal views get their news from a variety of sources, from NPR to The New York Times. However, they are “more likely than those in other ideological groups to block or ‘defriend’ someone on a social network — as well as to end a personal friendship — because of politics.”
That might explain what is about to happen to CNN. Licht is going to be unfriended by a tsunami of viewers.
The original stone sculpture honoring Justitia, the female champion of justice brandishing sword and scales, was reproduced in bronze in 1887 and stands in front of city hall in Frankfurt, Germany. The Fountain of Justice played an important role at coronation ceremonies. (Photo by Werner Schnell/Getty Images)
Several of my media ethics students have used a religious phrase in a secular manner, apparently uncertain of its source: “a thirst for justice.”
It appears in the Gospel of Matthew (5:3-10), commonly known as the Beatitudes, a series of blessings by Jesus of Nazareth during his Sermon on the Mount, a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee in what is now northern Israel. The blessings are revered not only for their hopeful message but also for their eloquent poetry, probably cast in that mode to be remembered.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall possess the earth.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be consoled.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Blessed are those who endure persecution for the sake of justice, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
The fourth line about justice has endured in memory for millennia because it relates to everyday bodily feelings essential to life: hunger and thirst.
As such, they are universal.
Bishop Patricia Lull, Saint Paul Area Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, is cheered when people live out a thirst and hunger for justice “as a deep expression of their faith life.” Such individuals claim in their vocation the blessing described by Jesus in Matthew 5:6.
“Here,” she says, “righteousness means justice and right relationship with God and with neighbors.”
“What does it mean to hunger and thirst for justice? The Greek word translated here as ‘justice’ is dikaiosune, a term that refers to personal righteousness as well as to social justice. Those who hunger and thirst for dikaiosune have a deep yearning for things to be right in their individual lives and in society.”
That describes what is happening within Gen Z — the generation born during the late 1990s and early 2000s.
My students say they “thirst for justice” in response to violence and unfairness in news reports, especially concerning school shootings, hate crimes and economic inequities.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation, concerned about the well-being of children, states that Gen Z members “tend to be more open-minded, liberal leaning and actively engaged in advocating for the fair and equal treatment of others.” Their core values include health care, mental health, higher education, economic security, civic engagement, racial equity, and the environment.
They are vocal about justice, to such extent that U.S. businesses now cater to that attribute. Forbes magazine notes that Gen-Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in U.S. history. “Unsurprisingly, most young people demand equal access to opportunities and social justice”—so much so, that many “will only work and buy from brands that contribute to a more inclusive world.”
I see that impulse in my students who compose personal ethics codes aligned with firms that share their beliefs.
But why the “thirst”?
As part of ethics education, we ask students to feel rather than think about ethics, from the gut punch of manipulation and push-pull of temptation to the eyerolls of hyperbole and heartthrobs of gratitude.
Thirst is an pesky sensation, described by neuroscience as “a slight itch in the back of your throat, a distracting urge to turn away from whatever you’re doing and find something to drink.” When students feel that itch, they take out phones and scour news sites in an oft-futile search to find justice or, at the very least, justification for current social ills.
What happens to the body when a thirsty person cannot find water? Blood pressure and heart rate change, triggering confusion. That is what Gen Z might feel in their quest to address sorrows of the human condition.
And that leads us back to the Beatitudes, which provides answers: empathy for the poor, compassion for the powerless, consolation for suffering, mercy for wrongs, purity for rights, prayers for peace, and justice for all.
Politicians regularly advocate for the 10 Commandments of the Old Testament to be posted in public classrooms. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1980 that this violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment regarding separation of church and state. Nevertheless, the Texas State Senate recently passed a similar bill about posting the commandments in classrooms, perhaps testing the current makeup of the high court.
How would the justices react if there was a bill to post the Beatitudes of the New Testament in public classrooms? Many Gen Z members might approve.
It’s difficult to crown the liar king because there are so many candidates, beginning with former President Donald Trump, who made some 30,573 false or misleading claims over four years of his presidency.
In contention for the liar king, or kings, are Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. As The New York Times reports, senior executives and the biggest stars at Fox News privately disbelieved Trump’s rigged election claims “even though the network continued to promote many of those lies on the air.”
But George Santos takes the crown because of the audacity of his claims and how they evolved due to neglected newsroom practices. In support of my coronation is PolitiFact’s “Guide to George Santos’ dubious statements.” The organization has tracked political falsehoods since 2007 and writes, “But we’ve never seen anyone like U.S. Rep. George Santos.”
Here are a few of his whoppers. Santos said he graduated from Baruch College, earned a Master of Business Administration degree from New York University, worked for Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, is part Jewish, has ancestors who fled the Holocaust and a mother who was in the World Trade Center’s twin towers on 9/11 and eventually died from injuries sustained that day.
On March 2, members of the House Ethics Committee voted unanimously to investigate these falsehoods. The media will prophesy consequences when and if violations eventually are announced. But missing will be how Santos got away with these lies and what that implies about political reporting and the state of journalism.
At the center of this debate is the North Shore Leader, a weekly Long Island, New York, newspaper with a circulation of 5,000 and a readership of 20,000. It is owned by Grant Lally, a conservative Republican and 2014 candidate for the 3rd Congressional District of New York, held now by Santos.
In September 2020, the North Star Leader reported spurious campaign filings by Santos along with claims about his net worth. However, few newsrooms took notice of his fabrications until The New York Times did an exposé after the election.
What could the media have done to hold Santos and other liars to account?
Each semester students in Dr. Bugeja’s Media Ethics Class earn extra credit by doing a simple assignment.
They are asked to select a beloved or admired person and show gratitude face-to-face or in a telephone call, email, or letter. Students were instructed not to divulge how that person had helped shape their lives but only to report their mood after completing the exercise.
In Spring 2023, 28 students participated in the exercise. All 28 had a positive experience. The three most common themes were “joy,” “warmth,” and “happy.”
Here are responses compiled by teaching assistant and master’s candidate Beau Coberly:
Full Responses with Coded Words:
*No personal information is included in the responses*
1: Refreshed. At this point in the semester, it is so easy to get overwhelmed with everything going on. I enjoyed taking the time to reflect on what brings me gratitude. (refreshed)
2: I couldn’t stop smiling. I’ve been in a better mood for the remainder of my night. Although initially nervous to call, I’m now so happy I did. Not only did this person say I made his day, but he somehow made mine just by listening. I also felt proud to complete this assignment, as it was a little outside my comfort zone. I feel as if the word joy doesn’t even cut it, as shortly following the call, this sort of electric feeling built up inside of me. (better mood, happy, pride, joy)
3: It felt really nice to give her something that I knew she would appreciate. In the letter, I wrote a list of things I wanted to say thank you for. One of the things is that she has never used my mental illness against me, and I teared up just a little while reading that part out loud. Happy overall. (happy, felt nice)
4: I told a family member and one of my friends to see if the feeling would differ because of the relationship. After telling them what they meant to me, I immediately got a rush of serotonin. It made me happy and appreciative of the people I have in my life. Outside of this assignment, I find myself telling people how grateful I am, so this was not a new feeling. I find enjoyment when people in my circle know how thankful I am for them. (rush of serotonin, happy, appreciative)
5: I felt extremely glad. My heart was full. I didn’t realize how much I missed this person’s voice and just talking to them was the highlight of my week. It helped to lift off so much of the anxiety I’ve had looming over me this week, and just for a moment, I was reminded why I’m putting all this stress on myself. I’m really glad I ended up doing this, not just for the extra credit, but for the feeling of catching up with an old friend and sharing my gratitude with them. (extremely glad, lifting of weight)
6: I sent her the letter I wrote, I felt like I was giving something back to someone who has impacted me so greatly. While I am aware that a letter can never equal what she did for me as a person, I felt that I was at least showing her that she is impacting lives in a positive way. I felt a sense of peace in letting her know that I am who I am today because of her. (sense of peace)
7: I experienced a very strong emotional reaction. I experienced a range of emotions, from guilt to gratitude to love. I think that the reciprocity of this made me experience gratitude on a deeper level, and the act was made more emotional because I was able to express my feelings to her and hear her reaction. Even after our conversation was over, I was left with the feeling of gratitude. It made me reflect on the feeling for other people in my life, and I felt that I was able to focus more on the feeling of gratitude when it arose within myself. (guilt, gratitude, love)
8: During this talk we just talked about life, our ups and downs, how we are stronger for it. I didn’t cry but I was very close, she cried a little but it’s something that you don’t think of to just say thank you and show her the praise that she deserved. She’s the most powerful strong individual that I will ever know. This is something that I will try to do more of in the future because I could see it in her eyes that I meant a lot to her and it meant a lot to me. (moved, wants to do it more)
9: Thinking back to all the happy memories and sometimes sad ones made me happier because it just reminded me of the good old days. Even though things are different now I still have those memories to hold on to. Sending the letter I felt joy but also nervousness. I knew the person was going to love the letters. I was still nervous because this was out of my comfort zone. But I did it and afterward, I felt almost relieved. Like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and my mind felt just a bit clearer. Overall it was a good experience that I will do on days where I need to feel a little extra down and need that little burst of happiness. (joy, nervous, weight lifted, mind clearer)
10: After I told the person who influenced me the most that I appreciated them, I felt uplifted. I felt lighter and like I got something off my chest. Watching their reaction to what I said also made me feel happy and grateful that they were in my life. (uplifted, weight lifted, happy, grateful)
11: After doing the gratitude experience, I felt joy in showing my appreciation to this person. It made the person feel loved and valued which I enjoyed reminding them of that they are loved and valued and have such an impact on my life. I don’t know what the word would be, but I feel like it brought me contentment knowing that I voiced to the person how they impacted me. (Joy, contentment)
12: After I did this, I felt wonderful. I never knew how much expressing gratitude could help uplift my emotions. Gratitude is certainly a concept I haven’t previously thought of regarding my relationships. As a person who values relationships and strives to keep them healthy, expressing my gratitude is something I should be doing more often. I am grateful for this experience because it gave me the realization that I should be expressing my gratitude toward the people I consider my closest friends. (Wonderful, uplifting)
13: After telling my person I admire who helped influence my life how much they meant to me I felt a sense of relief. It made me feel relieved to know that I did something nice for them after all the nice things they’ve done for me throughout my life. I obviously felt good and got joy from doing this but it did make me feel better overall. (relief, joy, felt good)
14: After calling the person who made a significant impact on me and who I will look up to my whole life, I felt really thankful and lucky that I have someone in my life that means so much to me. I know for a fact that I do not thank this person enough so it made me happy that they got to hear it over the phone, especially instead of over text. (Thankful, lucky)
15: The gratitude experience for me was something that was not really new to me. I do things like this randomly frequently. The feeling you get from making someone else happy is indescribable. I get goosebumps and a smile that won’t seem to go away. This time I was almost moved to tears from hearing how happy the other person was. This made my day better overall. I would like to start doing this consciously, more. (Indescribable, positive, moving)
16: After sending the text and receiving a response it made me realize how much it uplifts people to hear that we are grateful. This person knows that they had influenced me, but I think hearing that they have and that I was grateful for them made them feel special. I felt really enlightened and joyful after doing this assignment. (Enlightened, joyful)
17: I felt a wave of happiness come through me. After, we kept talking about experiences we went through together that really connected us, and I think that through revisiting those moments together we were able to deepen our friendship. I think that from doing the thanking, it allowed me to be fully upfront about my gratefulness. I really want to continue to do this in my everyday life to different people I appreciate. (Happy, deeper connection)
18: I felt overwhelmed with joy and emotions. I didn’t cry, but I was getting choked up. I usually don’t like to express these kinds of emotions so when I do it can feel kind of awkward. I’m really glad I said it though, it really made my day better and gave me a warm feeling. (Joy, overwhelmed with emotions, warm feeling, made day)
19: What it’s like for me when I give gratitude is a good feeling for myself to say the least. Makes me feel like I empowered the individual because those type of statements can make you work harder. It also makes me feel good about the day because few people have gratitude towards others and when you give it off it brightens up your day just as much as the other person. (Good feeling, brightened day)
20: After talking to a person that I felt was important to me in some way, I felt like I had achieved something. I felt like it was something I should have done a long time ago and that it was a long time coming. But overall, I think I felt very happy because I would recall memories I had with said person. (Happy, achievement)
21: To me, the gratitude project left me feeling lighter and better than I did before. Before expressing gratitude to my person, I was in a particularly bad place, feeling stressed and generally despondent over the tasks I had to do. I felt that I would try the gratitude project in this situation knowing that it was supposed to help with lifting someone’s current spirts. It did just that, not only did I feel better and had a different perspective regarding the tasks I had to do, more importantly, it made this important person in my life feel appreciated and important, too. (Lighter, felt better, different perspective)
22: It made me feel really good afterward. It made me feel very good to tell her how much she means to me and I could tell it made her feel good as well. It really made my whole day better. (Good, feel better, made day)
23: I choose to call the person who helped shape and influence my life for this gratitude experiment. I felt appreciative, happy, and warm inside which increased my happiness. I was glad I did this because it helped me realize why I looked up to this person and got to let them know all the things they have done for me that have made a difference in my life. (Appreciative, happy, warmth)
24: Going into the conversation I was apprehensive. It can be really awkward to outright tell someone this sort of thing. However, I’m glad I did after having the conversation I had this warm bittersweet feeling in my chest. While it did make me feel happier our conversation made me wish that I could see him in person. (Warm, happier, bittersweet)
25: However, this time I felt a huge relief. I think finally explicitly telling him how much working for him has changed my life allowed me to stop worrying about losing him before I could tell him these things. Doing this also made me miss working there. I miss having those people and that place in my life regularly. I feel like I appreciate them even more now after doing this. (Appreciative, relieved)
26: I had a phone call with a loved one and expressed my gratitude for everything they have done for me. Afterwards, I felt happy, uplifted, and strangely free. I felt like I did not have anything holding me back. I said my piece to them and did not feel like I was in debt to them or like I owed them anything. I was free to go about my life knowing that I expressed my gratitude to them, and they knew that I cared for what they had done for me. (Happy, uplifted, freed)
27: I recently told my best friend how much she means to me and has influenced my life. I felt super happy and emotional telling her how she has helped me become the person that I am today. The encounter really uplifted my mood and happiness because I was able to see how happy she was when I thanked her for everything. I loved this extra credit assignment and thought it was really nice to remind people how much they mean to me! (Happy, emotional, uplifted)
28: I found myself feeling more positive in the hour afterward. I felt a sense of positivity and also observed that my thoughts toward myself were more positive. There is a complete shift in mindset when gratitude is expressed. I not only felt good that I had uplifted her, but that translated into my own mindset and conscience. (More positive)
LESSON FROM ASSIGNMENT AS PUBLISHED IN MEDIA ETHICS MAGAZINE
This is a powerful example of how the “Gratitude Experience” invited students to explore the deepest echelons of their conscience. In media ethics class, we study kindness, compassion, empathy, influence, guidance, courage, sacrifice, faith, love, and community. The above letter references that. Of course, so did other excerpts from the assignment, and together they all set an upbeat tone for our face-to-face sessions.
Exploring gratitude does more than spark happiness. It teaches students where to locate their conscience, how to listen to and communicate with it, share its epiphanies, and apply its tenets as journalists and practitioners.
What better vehicle to do that than by showing—and sharing—gratitude?
Will artificial intelligence programs like ChatGPT make plagiarism so common as to become no big deal? (Photo illustration via Canva)
In 1999, Scott McNealy, CEO of Sun Microsystems, told reporters and technology analysts concerned about internet algorithms that people have “zero privacy anyway. Get over it!”
The comment shocked people. With the emergence of ChatGPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer) — a free online application that dialogues with users — teachers are in “near panic” with concerns about cheating, specifically, plagiarism.
It will take a while for us to get over it. But we will.
When McNealy made his privacy comment, eBay, PayPal and Amazon were in their infancy. Facebook would be founded five years later. Twitter, two years after that.
Google Maps came online in 2005. Street View not only showcased property but also occasionally caught people doing assorted embarrassing things.
In 2007, an attorney complained that a Google van can violate privacy by photographing “you in an embarrassing state of undress, as you close your blinds, for example.” (Google had caught him smoking, and he was hiding that from his family.)
The public was shocked about Street View for about a year. Then it wore off. People gave up privacy for the convenience of car directions.
Communication has four basic features: durability, storage, portability and convenience. An inscribed rock can last for centuries. But you can’t write much on it or easily tote it. Clay tablets, scrolls and books provided more storage and portability.
Then came Internet, the ultimate in convenience. We don’t have to leave our home. We order in, pay bills, stream content and work in pajamas.
People will give up anything for convenience, risking privacy and identity theft.
This was McNealy’s message more than two decades ago.
At the time, artificial intelligence was almost a half century old, making tremendous strides. Between 1957-74, scientists developed algorithms that would lead, ultimately, to ChatGPT and other bots that now write essays and pass law and business exams.
Prose isn’t dead; we just won’t be doing much of it in a variety of jobs. Chatbots have infiltrated the writing professions, customer support, programming, media planning and buying, judicial filings, and consulting.
Artificial intelligence operates on theft. Consider the definition of plagiarism: presenting someone else’s work or ideas as your own by incorporating that into your own content without full acknowledgement.
Chatbots analyze what you ask them, evaluate responses, swipe content by others with similar requests, prompt for more information, scour the web for answers (without citation), and access data on your device if you agreed to the app’s terms of service.
Consumers will interact with chatbots at all hours, without having to wait for retailers and banks to open. People can complain vociferously about inferior products and services without the chatbot losing composure or calling you a Karen or Ken.
School systems will try to ban chatbots, purchasing services to detect cheating. But results will be unreliable as AI content improves and digital natives find workarounds.
Eventually, plagiarism will morph from failing grade to reprimand.
The public will become bored with the slush pile of mediocre machine prose, patronizing authors with insight into the human condition. Their copyrighted works will continue to sell.
Infringement will remain on the books. Content owners will decide who, when, how and where original material may be used. If they can document any monetary loss, their attorneys can sue the offending parties.
A chatbot will write the legal brief and file it with the court.
Interviewing the chatbot
To test my ideas about plagiarism and chatbots, I asked ChatGPT to write my column based on preliminary information. Then I asked questions, as a reporter would do, to challenge what the AI bot created. It’s a fascinating exchange between an author and a machine programmed to defend itself against allegations of plagiarism.
The chatbot has been programmed already to defend plagiarism, because school districts are concerned about that. Gradually, with question after question, I eventually got the answers I was looking for concerning machine learning and plagiarism.
This applications is going to be used by schools, business and commerce. Plagiarism remains at the moment a serious offense. But when our machines routinely pilfer content from a variety of sources in the name of machine learning, eventually we will allow that because of convenience.
We will follow the trajectory that Scott McNealy prophesied with privacy. And we will get over it. Convenience trumps values, as we have seen repeatedly with technology and social change.
In the above verse, Jesus personifies “The Word.” He knew the power of words as master storyteller: “He spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable” (Matthew 13:34).
New York Times bestselling author Rick Warren, founding pastor of Saddleback Church, writes about the benefits of using stories to convey truth. They hold our attention, stir emotions, and help us remember.
That’s why politicians, journalists and teachers rely on — and at times, abuse — the word.
Perhaps that is why his press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, announced at her first conference: “I will never lie to you, you have my word on that.”
That was put to the test when McEnany testified before the Jan. 6 Committee investigating the insurrection. She was compelled to tell the truth under penalty of law.
The U.S. Justice Department takes words seriously. Witnesses are expected to tell the truth. When they don’t, they may perjure themselves.
Perjury has four conditions: A person takes an oath to testify truthfully, willfully makes a false statement contrary to that oath, believes the statement to be untrue, and knows it is related to a material fact.
Perjury, a federal offense, subjects violators to 5 years imprisonment. State laws vary but also classify perjury as a felony.
Two other infractions involve the word — copyright infringement and plagiarism.
Copyright concerns intellectual property and the right to control its distribution, reproduction and adaption. If a person steals from a copyrighted work and impacts revenue, they have infringed those rights.
Copyright is mentioned in the U.S. Constitution. Congress has the power to “promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.”
Plagiarism involves stealing or mimicking someone else’s written, digital, videotaped, photographed, promotional work or research, identifying it as their own without permission.
Copyright infringement is a crime; plagiarism isn’t. That’s an ethical issue. However, consequences can be extreme, as Joe Biden experienced during his 1987 presidential bid.
Biden dropped out of the race because a furor over word theft. He acknowledged that he plagiarized a law school paper in 1965 and lifted sections of other people’s speeches without proper attribution.
Perhaps one of the most embarrassing cases of plagiarism involved Melania Trump’s speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention. She said her parents had impressed on her “that you work hard for what you want in life. That your word is your bond, and you do what you say and keep your promise. That you treat people with respect.”
There was a bond, all right. It was with Michelle Obama — who said at the 2008 Democratic National Convention that “you work hard for what you want in life; that your word is your bond; that you do what you say you’re going to do; that you treat people with dignity and respect. …”
At first the Trump campaign claimed it was coincidence that the above and other sections of Melania Trump’s speech were similar to Michelle Obama’s. The “coincidence” excuse is easily refuted as odds against it are astronomical. Eventually, Trump speechwriter Meredith McIver accepted responsibility for pilfering those words without attribution.
Of course, most politicians, teachers and journalists never plagiarize. Nevertheless, they should be concerned about word theft.
What will they do if they witness it?
In “Advice for Plagiarism Whistleblowers,” authors Mark Alexander Fox and Jeffrey Beall state that “the most compelling reason to report plagiarism is to ensure that authors of original work are given due credit for their research and that this credit is not misappropriated by plagiarists.”
They note that reporting plagiarism can correct the record. Also, they state, reporting plagiarism “sends a consistent message to students, that is, that as academics we will hold ourselves to the same standards that we expect of our students.”
Everyone, regardless of profession or station in life, should remember the sanctity of words. We use them every day in texts, emails, posts, papers, speeches and articles. When we respect the word, we keep our promises, earning trust and credibility.
With the advent of ChatGPT and the popularity of TikTok, several states are revising curricula to help students identify media bias. Iowa needs to catch up.
By Michael Bugeja, Des Moines Register
Without digital literacy, the emerging generation is likely to misinterpret the world and its place in it. Students will be disenfranchised not by inadequate state funding but by outdated lesson plans.
A 2021 Standard University study found that high school students are largely unable to detect fake news on the internet, citing “an urgent need for schools to integrate new tools and curriculum into classrooms that boost students’ digital skills.”
For more than a decade I have advocated for media and technology literacy. But now we are at a critical juncture as artificial intelligence merges with social media.
That promises to change everything, including who or what informs us — media or machine, reporter or chatbot. In the past, whoever owned the printing press had unrestrained free speech; that has morphed into whoever programs the algorithm.
The term paper has always been a misguided assignment, arbitrarily graded with little student-professor engagement, apart from awkward office-hour meetings during which errors are enumerated and deductions explained.
The revenge of the chatbot awaits these instructors.
I realize that journalism programs must uphold writing standards. So must English, public relations, advertising and other content-based disciplines.
The news media has published hundreds of stories on how AI chatbots, especially ChatGPT, have threatened the existence of the term paper. Why not examine the shortcomings of that to see if the assignment is worth saving?
In the aftermath of insurrection the next day, that case was forgotten.
It was filed by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. He asserted that elections in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan and Wisconsin, which then President-elect Joe Biden won, were unconstitutional, alleging voting procedures were determined by non-legislative means.
Nevertheless, I wrote, there will be a final, futile attempt on Jan. 6, 2021, to assail the results in swing states, essentially resurrecting Paxton’s unsubstantiated claims.
I never envisioned the deadly assault on the Capitol. Few observers did apart from those who concocted it.
Since then there have been dozens of articles and opinions addressing how we should remember Jan. 6, with most referencing the risk to democracy. Perhaps the most poignant reminder about such a threat occurred on that day more than 80 years ago when Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered a prescient State of the Union address to Congress.
Female journalists, especially women of color, take the brunt of abuse directed toward journalists. (Photo via Canva)
I think we need to acknowledge what women journalists have gone through. … If you’re in the newsroom and you’re getting attacked, you are not going to be able to ignore it, and you’re not going to be able to do this on your own.
– Maria Ressa, Nobel Prize-winning journalist
Journalists are routinely vilified on social media and on the beat, with women enduring the brunt of abuse.
There were 25 organized troll campaigns targeting women reporters in the first half of 2020, according to Ms. Magazine. Additionally, the magazine cited 267 attacks and threats, with many mentioning women’s appearance and sexuality, including death and rape warnings.
To make matters worse, women of color were 34% more likely than white women to be mentioned in abusive, sexist and racist tweets.
In any other profession, supervisors would be responsible for addressing and preventing those attacks. But publishers and general managers typically advise reporters to block the trolls and ignore the digital assaults.
Media companies can do more. As I recommended in a recent article for the Poynter Institute, a journalism research organization, supervisors can:
Use technology to identify the IP addresses of abusers, reporting any threats to authorities.
Contact abusers and demand apologies.
Take risk-assessment measures to ensure the safety of their newsrooms and offer an array of support services to ensure the mental wellbeing of employees.
To be sure, this is not an American phenomenon. Last year, Irene Khan, the United Nations expert on freedom of opinion and expression, said, “From rape, sexual assault, death and rape threats and sexual harassment to trolling, gendered hate speech, disinformation, smear campaigns and threats to family members – women journalists are subjected to threats and attacks in the course of their work just for being journalists.”
Khan recommended, among other actions, that social media companies make safe digital spaces for women. She also held media companies responsible “to ensure zero tolerance of gender violence or harassment in the workplace.”
Perhaps most important was the suggestion that politicians and community leaders “refrain from making statements that could put the women at risk.”
Earlier this year, in the Independent Lens reported that “the internet is a conduit for an electronic wave of hatred, harassment, and threats directed at female journalists.” The web is more dangerous for women journalists than the streets. “In a survey of female journalists, 73 percent had experienced gender-based violence online.”
The report emphasized that women journalists “disadvantaged by racism, homophobia, religious bigotry and other forms of discrimination face additional exposure to online attacks.”
The reason for these attacks is obvious: power.
I am a dual citizen of the United States and Malta. In 2017, Maltese journalist and blogger Daphne Anne Caruana Galizia was assassinated when a bomb exploded in her car. She was a controversial figure in Malta. Her blog, Running Commentary, became as popular as many traditional media outlets.
There are many theories about why she was killed, beyond the scope here. But one of them, in my view, was how she harnessed the power of internet. For that, she paid the ultimate price.
Journalism in America used to be a male-dominated profession. That is no longer the case. Demographics of 6,500-plus U.S. journalists show that 53.4% are women and 46.6%, men. Some 70.8% are white, followed by Hispanic or Latino (12.0%), Asian (8.5%) and Black or African American (5.4%).
Women are shaping the news, providing different perspectives.
U.S. media companies been hiring more women, including supervisors. Gannett publishes an annual diversity report. In 2020, USA TODAY Editor-in-Chief Nicole Carroll reported that 48.1% were women, and 51.9% men. “In 2017,” Carroll wrote, “women were only 36% of our team.”
Those numbers have improved. In 2021, USA TODAY reported that 51.7% of their newsroom workers were women and 48.3%, men, with more women now as managers, up from 56.7% to 59.4%.
While these statistics are impressive, they do little to resolve the continuing issue of attacks on women journalists.
Media companies should encourage reporters to document digital and personal attacks. Those are easy to assemble via text, email, voice mail and screenshots. They should be compiled in regular reports disseminated to the public and accompanied by articles documenting what journalists, especially women, are subjected to in the course of doing their jobs.
Additionally, technologies are being developed to alert supervisors about abuse. One such application is called Harassment Manager. “Individuals can review tweets based on hashtag, username, keyword or date,” detecting toxic comments.
The way to combat abuse against women journalists is to use the internet and the First Amendment to alert society, holding offending parties accountable whenever possible.