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Don't Believe It!: How Lies Become News [Paperback]

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Item description for Don't Believe It!: How Lies Become News by Alexandra Kitty...

Do you think shamed journalists Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass were rare bad apples? Far from it, they were just the ones stupid enough to get caught. Alexandra Kitty demonstrates with example upon example how manufactured news is endemic in our media and shows the reader how to spot suspicious stories.

In the last few years, the journalism industry has cut costs by eliminating important safeguards: companies have reduced the number of fact-checkers, editors, and journalists. What this means is that editors and reporters cannot spend time verifying information. Moreover, journalists are not required to have professional experience or training to cover their beats. Fierce competition to get a scoop may lead to journalists making careless errors or not double-checking information.

To maintain audiences and readership, journalists, editors and producers will choose sensational stories that "shock." Combined with time and budget constraints, journalists may unwittingly or deliberately disseminate false or misleading information to the public. It is important to "get" a story, interview a subject or nab a scoop first-the accuracy of these elements is secondary. Competition from other media outlets also means the goal of a journalist is to get the scoop first-how it makes it on the air (flawed, inaccurate, questionably obtained) is unimportant.

Don't Believe It! teaches news consumers how to verify information. It shows readers how to evaluate sources, eyewitnesses and data. This is a comprehensive bible to information verification from a logical standpoint, showing how to be skeptical without being jaded, step by step, with case studies and a classification manual.

Alexandra Kitty is a journalist who specializes in crime and media issues. She has a BA in psychology from McMaster University and a MA in journalism from the University of Western Ontario. She lives in Hamilton, Ontario.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   413
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.75" Width: 6" Height: 8.75"
Weight:   1.2 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Mar 1, 2005
Publisher   The Disinformation Company
ISBN  1932857060  
ISBN13  9781932857061  

Availability  0 units.

More About Alexandra Kitty

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Alexandra Kitty is a journalist who specializes in crime and media issues. She worked as a Canadian correspondent for Presstime magazine. She also wrote a cover story about Thomson for Quill magazine, and about the CBC for Current newspaper in Washington, DC.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Current Events > Mass Media > Media Studies
2Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Education > Education Theory > Contemporary Methods > Multicultural
3Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Politics > General
4Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > General
5Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Media Studies
6Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Sociology > General

Reviews - What do customers think about Don't Believe It!: How Lies Become News?

Good, as far as it goes - no discussion of propaganda  Jul 20, 2008
For me, not being a reporter, the most interesting and useful part of this book is Section One entitled "Introduction to Evaluating the News". In these first 5 chapters we get a nice glossary of the news business, how reporters obtain and disseminate news and, more importantly, we find out about the real-world limitations they live under. In short, they're always under time pressures and the news business exists to make money. So their motivation is to get an exclusive (a 'scoop') and management's motivation is get the largest audience & cut corners (and hence save money) on those pesky non-essentials like fact checkers, research etc.

Most of the rest of the book consists of snippets of news stories detailing how the media has been duped at various times. At the end of each chapter we get an itemized list of how these fake stories could have been spotted. Handy to have, I suppose. Reading these case studies I couldn't help but think "there can't be THAT many people out there who are deliberately trying to deceive news organizations". But maybe there are? A devil's advocate could see these as one-off events or rare aberrations not the norm.

Essentially what we get is confirmation of McLuhan's observation that news is not something that exists "out here" but is something created in the 'sausage factory' called a newsroom. If you know how the media works and the pressures they're under then it's easy to fool them especially if you put your mind to it. After reading this book I'm inclined to be a more critical reader/media consumer so as not to swallow everything presented.

Since the examples presented are individual news stories used to illustrate a specific point it's easy to draw the conclusion that these hoaxes are a result of deliberate bad actors. But what about the case where large organizations with lots of money and resources (read: the military, government, corporations) systematically mislead & manipulate the media to advance their cause? How do we spot that? This very important subject is not discussed by Alexandra Kitty. This is a significant omission IMO as this stuff is also "lies that become news" except they're big lies as opposed to mostly smaller, individual lies found in the book.

It would have been v. useful had the author included a detailed discussion of the methods used to manipulate public opinion as developed by Edward Bernays, the founder of public relations. His techniques were developed in the 1920s and 1930s and are still in use today. Everyone should read his 1928 book, Propaganda. I would also commend the excellent books by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton.
Media lies and bias  May 29, 2007
This book was purchased for my college english class. I was hesitant about it at first, thinking it would be a sensationalist book preaching about how everything is a lie and such. In fact, I found I really enjoyed it. Thankfully void of neither a left nor right wing bias, and all together facts, not opinion. It really makes you think and consider what goes on in media today. It amazes me how much things news outlets get away with. As Kitty points out, they're in to make money. I definetly look closer at the news after reading this book. Very interesting, and readble.
Belongs in every home in America  Jan 12, 2007
This book looks at how, and why, so many scams, hoaxes and other falsehoods seem to make it into the news.

If there is such a thing as The Reason for such a state of affairs, it is that, in general, journalists don't bother to check a story's accuracy. In this 24-hour-news world, there is little, or no, time to be thorough. It is better to be first than right. If a story has been covered by some other media outlet, it must automatically be legitimate. Also, an increasing number of scam artists have learned to package their scams in a media-friendly way.

All of us have seen such stories in the news. Some people claim to have found disgusting things in their food, like needles in soda cans, or fingers in chili. During Gulf War I, there was the widely reported accusation that Iraqi soldiers burst into Kuwaiti maternity wards, took the babies out of incubators, left them to die on the floor, and took the incubators. A popular story is the one about a crime victim, or someone, especially a child, fighting some major disease. Whether or not the poor individual actually exists tends to be forgotten. What if the reporter is the one who says they are sick, but then it turns out to be a lie. How many of these stories turn out to be true?

Included are a list of questions that the media consumer can ask to help weed out the hoaxes. How well is the story sourced? Is the story over hyped? Is the rumor inflammatory or slanderous? Does this interview subject have something to gain by lying? Was a "friend of a friend" the origin of the rumor? Does the story rely on unnamed sources? In war zones, does one of the warring sides seem to have media training or have hired a public relations firm?

This book belongs in every home in America. It does a fine job of showing just how easily scams and hoaxes can become news, and helping the consumer to distinguish them from legitimate news. The writing is first-rate and it is really easy to read.

Read this book  May 8, 2005
Many of us have noticed how instead of news, we get more and more sensationalism, opinions, staged news, and complete hoaxes. We see a few accusations of a "liberal" or a "conservative" media. But that misses the point; what we really have is a lying media. A media for which truth has become an enemy rather than a value. Of course, ratings are the goal, and truth may well interfere with that goal, at least in the short term. And we see some folks even claim that truth is just relative anyway (and only in the eye of the beholder). But it isn't. There is such a thing as honest and accurate reporting. And we consumers need to have a way to say so, objectively, when we're not getting that.

I think people of all political persuasions need to read this book. I'm a liberal, and I found myself sympathizing with some of the author's complaints politically. But I would have sympathized with some of them had I been a conservative. I was impressed by the way that the author analyzed bad reporting independent of its political stance.

I was especially intrigued by the section on propaganda. Here, Kitty shows us how the media feed us an overdose of dubious anecdotes, demonization, and material from which relevant parts have been censored. We see stories with all sorts of logical holes that are simply designed to get a reaction from the audience rather than report accurately, educate, or inform. And we are misled by straight-faced claims that are utter nonsense, such as that prosperity for one side in a struggle would be a violation of rights for the other side.

I do not know how thoroughly the author takes her own advice. But we certainly ought to!
Excellent Look Inside media bias  Apr 4, 2005
Alexandra Kitty reveals as true, what a growing number of people have long suspected: the media reports their biases, not the facts.

Senior news directors at most TV stations, and editors at most news papers have biases and prejudices that lean heavily toward socialist economics, left wing social engineerning, and support for other destructive agendas. The journalism schools know this, and teach students accordingly. The result is that colleges and universities no longer train people for jouralistic or fact-gathering excellence -- instead, they filter out all but the most extreme leftists from the ranks of prospective news reporters and editors. Creative writing has replaced facts.

Alexandra Kitty shows how extremist feminism, pro-abortion reporting, extreme anti-business views, environmental radicalism, support for pedophilia and homosexuality, and several other radical views have become "mainstream" in media reporting, as the content of "news" has increasingly become tendentious and misrepresentative. Ms. Kitty documents how the media have all bue abandoned fact-based reporting in favor of sensationalism and selective presentations of carefullly arranged facts that serve as propaganda for the causes favored within the culture of modern media. She also shows how the media's internal culture has become increasingly isolated and removed from the real mainstream views and experience of most Americans.

The most extreme media views are the product of what Roger Kimball termed "tenured radicals" (in his 1990 book of the same title), and what Allan Bloom identified as "the closing of minds" in his landmark 1987 tome. The top editors and content directors in the American media long ago closed their minds to facts, and insisted on political correctness as a condition for promotion or advancement in their organizations. Newly hired reporters and college graduates quickly learned that sensationalism and left-wing reporting (even if it was full of outright lies) were a ticket to advancement, while balanced or objective reporting that stuck with the facts led to a stalled career.

The result has been a series of high profile cases where top reporters have been caught reporting complete fabrications, and gettign off with just a mild reprimand.

Ms. Kitty shows that the cases of Jayson Blair and Stephen GLass were not unusual; what was unusual is that they were careless and left a broad paper trail that led to them being caught in their own webs of fabrications and falsehoods.

Alexandra Kitty has a long career in criminal investigations, and what she has uncovered in American (and Canadian) media is a crime of sorts: the media's claim to be reporting "news" is a fraud. This is a shocking book, not likely to be reviewed in your local newspaper, or in other commercial media.


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