How Not to Be Fooled: Sources Say

Always Ask Who Is Saying It – and Why? Anonymous sources have become a media game of Chinese whispers. A Devil's Curmudgeon. In the dim, dark, pre-internet days, a journalist’s contact book was their prized possession. As veteran journalist Alex Mitchell recounts, his contacts “were the lifeblood of my professional life”. I still remember my …

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The Conspiracy Theory Burning America

Anti-vaxxers, 5G, Lizard People, the Illuminati…and Black Lives Matter. Imagine if anti-vaxxers were rioting, burning and looting across America’s major cities. Imagine if store owners were being beaten to death by thugs convinced that Bill Gates was impurifying their precious bodily fluids. Imagine if celebrity chefs and soccer moms were besieging the White House. The …

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How Not to Get Fooled: Graphs

Data visualisations – “graphs”, to the unitiated – have been an incredibly useful tool for cutting through the fog of bias and misunderstanding to get at the facts. One of the most famous early data visualisations was John Snow’s graph plotting every case in the infamous Broad Street cholera outbreak of 1854. Snow’s dot map …

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Principled Media Stand or Last Gasp of Hypocrisy?

Recently, Australia’s newspapers took the unprecedented collective action of publishing their front pages entirely redacted. This, they say, is a united call for greater media freedom following a sustained attack on the rights of journalists to hold governments to account and report the truth to the Australian public. Are the nation’s newspapers really taking such …

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Fake News: How We Got Where We Are

First Donald Trump broke the media, then he made them a laughing-stock. Despite their endless self-regard, everyone knows who the real fake news are now. The 2004 comedy Anchorman opens with the observation that “there was a time…when people believed everything they heard on TV”. The joke is grounded in reality: in the early 70s, …

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