About Vanessa

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So far Vanessa has created 23 blog entries.

Not “Fake News,” But Still Awful for Other Reasons:  Analysis of Two Examples from The Echo Chambers This Week

The term “fake news” is problematic for a number of reasons, one of which is that it is widely used to mean anything from “outright hoax” to “some information I do not like.” Therefore, I refrain from using the term to describe media sources at all. Besides that, I refrain from discussing the term because I submit that the biggest problem in our current media landscape is not “hoax” stories that could legitimately be called “fake news.” What is far more damaging to our civic discourse are articles and stories that are mostly, or even completely, based on the truth, ...Read more

By |2018-08-28T23:17:51+00:00October 30th, 2017|All, Media Bias|13 Comments

Top Six Red Flags that Identify a Conspiracy Theory Article

It can be tough to see your Facebook friends sharing conspiracy theory stories, and tough to respond to them effectively. Pointing it out and saying "that's a conspiracy theory" doesn't seem to be effective. But there are certain writing patterns and tropes that are common within such articles that make them compelling to some people. Sometimes, just pointing out patterns and tropes helps people see them for what they are.

By |2018-08-28T23:18:02+00:00October 10th, 2017|All, Media Bias|8 Comments

The Chart, Version 2.0: What Makes A News Source “Good?”

In my original news chart, I wrestled with the questions of what made news sources “good” and came up with some categories that generally resonated with people. I ranked sources on a vertical axis with those at the top ranked as “high quality” and those at the bottom as “low quality.” I characterized the sources, from top to bottom, in this order: Complex, Analytical, Meets High Standards, Basic, and Sensational/ Clickbait. This mostly works, because it results in sources regarded as high-brow or classy (e.g., The Atlantic, The Economist) being ranked high on the axis, and trashy sources (e.g., ...Read more

By |2018-08-29T19:13:07+00:00August 18th, 2017|All, Chart Iterations, Media Bias, Methodology|37 Comments

What is the difference between the statues of George Washington and Robert E. Lee?

The pro-confederate-statue side asks this question, likely in earnest, and it is worth grappling with the distinction. Indeed, since slavery is evil and horrible, as generally agreed by liberals and conservatives alike, and both men owned slaves, why is it preferable to take down the confederate statue and not the Washington statue? This is not cut and dry, or “obvious” to everyone, and we shouldn’t treat it as such. It is a difficult task to distinguish between two things that are alike in some ways and different in others, so let’s look at the details and facts of these cases ...Read more

By |2018-08-28T23:00:02+00:00August 17th, 2017|All, All Generalizations are False Blog, Politics|8 Comments

The Chart, Version 1.0: Original Reasoning and Methodology

tl;dr: There are lots of reasons. Many are subjective. More data would make it better. I am not a media expert. Since my News Quality graphic got widely shared, I have been asked what my inspiration, methodology, and process was for creating it. I note that I have been asked this question by academics, journalists, and laypersons that care about accuracy and quality. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t care about accuracy and quality. And a lot of those same people don’t like to read. Why I Created It I am frustrated by the reality that people don’t like ...Read more

By |2018-08-29T19:20:58+00:00December 19th, 2016|All, Chart Iterations, Media Bias, Methodology|114 Comments

News Quality

We are living in a time where we have more information available to each of us than ever before in history. However, we are not all proficient at distinguishing between good information and bad information. This is true for liberal, moderate, and conservative people. I submit that these two circumstances are highly related to why our country is so politically polarized at the moment. Why is it that I can have such different views on the same subject or topic as someone else who lives in the same country? Take the polarizing example of people's opinions on Hillary. Why ...Read more

By |2018-08-29T19:19:28+00:00December 12th, 2016|All, Chart Iterations, Media Bias, Methodology|82 Comments

Why Guns Are Not Like Spoons

I. Why Guns are Not Like Spoons “If guns kill people, then spoons make people fat.” That’s a favorite analogy of pro-gun folks to ostensibly make the point that it is bad decisions, and not the inanimate tools themselves that cause undesirable results from the use of the tools. This is a bad analogy, but it is not surprising that bad analogies sound perfectly logical to people predisposed to agree with them, because many such people are terrible at analogies. Unfortunately, most people who disagree with the analogy have a general sense that it is wrong, but can’t point out ...Read more

Talk to Trump Supporters

I’ve noticed certain trends in FB arguing over the past few months, primarily revolving around Hillary vs. Bernie and Trump vs. anti-Trump. I’ve seen a wide range of the quality of discourse in the Hillary vs. Bernie arguments from very low to very high. Typically the arguments, regardless of quality, receive a high level of engagement (lots of comments). But the discourse around Trump vs. anti-Trump has primarily been limited to memes/videos from pro-Trump, and utter dismissiveness (“just unfriend me if you are voting for Trump”) from anti-Trump, and a pretty low level of engagement—that is, most such posts don’t ...Read more

By |2018-08-28T23:04:03+00:00June 8th, 2016|All, All Generalizations are False Blog, Politics|2 Comments

Why That “Transfinancial” Meme is Terrible

I’ve noticed a meme circulating in some of my conservative friends’ social media posts that is clearly intended to mock the plight of transgender people in view of transgender rights being in the news. It goes something like this: "I'm Transfinancial. It means I am a rich person in a poor person's body. Give me money to fix my disorder!! I’d like to point out why this is a bad analogy for arguing that trans people either 1) shouldn’t have the right to be themselves like everyone else or 2) are pretending to be something they are not.* The premise ...Read more

Marching, Civil Disobedience, and Looting are All Different Things

We should make an effort to differentiate between marching, civil disobedience, and looting. They are different things, in the same way that admirable policing and excessive force are different things. After all, our arguments are only as strong as our ability to distinguish and analyze facts, instead of lumping generalizations together. To complain about marching, civil disobedience (i.e., blocking traffic) and looting all in one breath is imprecise. Most would agree that peacefully marching in designated areas is appropriate and sometimes effective, because no one is breaking the law and sometimes people in power listen to marchers. Most would agree ...Read more

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