Starting over in a Post-Journalism World, Part Six.

Some people have no instinct or feel for research. They dig without purpose, slop together information, and then get out a thesaurus, use big words, and hope you don't notice the big holes in their work.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has such a piece in The Big Lie: the story of a professor who forged a fake letter as a ruse to his current university to lead them to falsely believe he was getting a job offer at another university so that they would give in to his demands and give him tenure.

The article is a perfect example of sophistry disguised as an investigative piece.

The number of unanswered questions in this article is distressing, but we are supposed to be impressed because you can click and read the letters and police reports gathered for the article.

That is not a big deal. I did that sort of thing with Chaser News a decade ago, but also gathering memos, transcripts, and the like is standard for the job.

But the kinds of information gathered -- and not gathered are very telling.

There is a narrative to the article, but surprisingly, very little actual facts to see what has actually transpired.

The first problem comes with the university not following up with the supposed job offer by verifying whether or not the letter was a gambit. They should have called or email, and followed up, but they didn't.

And considering a university is a place where research is their reason for being, the first oversight was serious enough to ask if there are bigger problems, and the fibbing professor is ma mere tip of the iceberg.

But we don't have any documentation on the university's human resources policy on verifying employees documentation.

There are many other holes in tis article. There is mention of the private investigator the professor's estranged wife hired who interjected himself in her husband's academic affairs, but the narrative presented is dodgy at best. From the accounts, the wife is portrayed as someone who knew the deceptions, but kept quiet and was complicit until she found out the husband she was supporting financially was fooling around.

The article has no focus, and the reason is it has too few facts going for it.

We also have no idea how legitimate the disgraced professor's previous grievances were, or whether his previous work was legitimate or also suspect.

Yet the article purports to interview him without actually using direct quotes, something quite out of place when we have documents in the margins:

When the subject of his fake letter comes up, McNaughton appears exhausted and frustrated. He doesn’t want to talk about why he did what he did. He keeps repeating that there’s no justification for what was clearly a major breach of ethics. He fidgets with a paper coffee cup until he has practically shredded its rim. He tugs at his dark beard. 

But over the course of seven hours of conversation, a few glasses of cabernet and a Yuengling, McNaughton unspools a larger story that is endemic to his profession. Hardly any scientist will ever win a major prize or successfully develop a cancer drug. The odds of that are even more daunting for one who toils away at a midtier public research university. So the focus shifts to smaller wins: a congratulatory email from the dean, a steady stream of pipette tips, a few extra square feet of lab space. Maybe, if everything goes just right, there’s a new interdisciplinary program or an article in a major journal.

These tiny battles for resources and validation can consume a professor, but they do little to answer what became for McNaughton an essential question: What am I worth? He’s still asking that question, the one that got him into this mess in the first place.

This is the way of journalism: throwing a few nuggets here or there, but with no anchor, just colour, sophistry, and narrative.

Meaning we either read to be misinformed -- or not and stay uninformed.

It is a serious problem that must be addressed by the alternative.

We have the tools to be informed, and yet, we are becoming increasingly ignorant -- and there are consequences to it...

Why we settled for garbage journalism.


I graduated from McMaster University in 1994, Summa Cum Laude. A decade later, I was the first female recipient of the Arch Award for career achievement. 

My degree was in psychology, and that degree was crucial for my career as someone who studied journalism by working as a journalist.

I got my latest copy of my alumni magazine, and there was an article that I found very distressing.

It was about a so-called "fake news" course taught by Mark Busser -- and after reading the article, I knew this course had no merit or value for anyone wanting to truly spot fake news.

All of the "tips" given will not help anyone spot real news from fake.

And I should know as my research predates Busser's.

In 2005, I wrote Don't Believe It!: How lies become news -- which was the guide in spotting fake news, and was around long before anyone was talking about fake news -- including Mac (two colleges had offered my course to students -- Mohawk in about 2000, and Niagara in about 2010, but those courses were never a go).

Busser's thesis has a serious confirmation bias that nullifies the idea that "fake news" is somehow different than traditional news.

As Don't Believe It! proved -- fake news has been in real news for decades -- so why are you bothering looking at URLs? The sensationalism has been part of mainstream news from the get-go.

My book was the guide to seeing hoaxes, lies, propaganda, and fake news in any publication or broadcast.

Mac is doing an enormous disservice to students with a weak hypothesis that appeals to authority.

Because propaganda hinges on that very logical fallacy.

Fake news is in the regular news.

Just take a look at this article  in the Chronicle of Higher Education that uncovered that a widely-quoted student loan "expert" -- in fact did not exist.

"Drew Cloud" was quoted in many traditional media outfits.

And he was a phantom.

In 2018.

"Fake news" is an invention to explain away the Left's failure to capture the White House in 2016. We always had propaganda leaflets being dropped from the sky. We always had people spread lies on the outside.

But we have always had journalists do it, too, and unless you deal with that reality, proclaiming to teach people how to spot "fake news" is futile.

It is the reason journalism got destroyed, and yet those journalists are still acting as if everything is normal. The Chicago Tribune is happy it voted to be unionized when they won't be around long enough for it to matter. No matter how many temper tantrums they throw about ownership, never realizing they can no longer attract anyone else.

Journalists are hated for a real reason.

Journalists are hated for making up fake labels to describe people to make them seem like an enemy Them. The National Post is trying to make an accused mass killer in Toronto seem like he was an alt-right "incel" hater -- never mind that people who knew him since boyhood report he was always troubled, meaning he went through multiple systems and institutions over the years, and he always slipped under the radar. There were warning signs for years, but if we ask hard questions, people may get offended; and so, we stick a label, pretend a killer is from a different planet, and we can keep with our old habits and not rock the boat.

Journalists are hated for sucking up to people and ignoring the rot. The Post congratulated Toronto for warm fuzzies in light of the massacre, instead of wonder how a young man with serious problems was ignored until he exploded. Why do we look to close our eyes shut when there will be people who will never be okay ever again? There is an orphaned boy, but who cares when we can give out paper crowns so we don't have to deal with destroyed sense of peace?

We may throw money at a problem, but problems are a black hole that drain resources unless we marched right into the eye of that storm to confront the problem head on.

Journalists are hated for their partisan virtue-signalling, such as the Toronto Star that got offended for people assuming the massacre was a terrorist act.

It was an act of terrorism. It was not political terrorism, and no race, religion, or nation has a monopoly on terrorism. You have people driven to kill -- quite literally -- because they want to destroy strangers.

And the are hated for their dishonesty and double standards as we have those who spew hate, and then deny they did it -- pretending proof isn't proof.

I have studied those lies for my entire adult life, and I decided to do something about it.


Academia has problems admitting any culpability in how journalism collapsed, but they are a big part of the problem. They taught those at j-school the craft, but nothing about the science. Academics who weren't journalists are equally useless because they have a romanticized and inaccurate understanding of journalism.

You cannot have a course in spotting fake news if you have not made your primary living working in journalism and know the realities and truths of that industry.

Journalism has a serious weakness because it never understood empiricism. You have two professions with different, but equally debilitating gaping voids in their knowledge -- and no, you cannot just study journalism and think you understand anything about it.

You have to work in it to see it. 

Journalism always shunned the experimental. Academia always shunned the reality.

You need the actual field to be the laboratory. 

As someone who looked after someone who was completely bedridden and disabled, I was always frustrated at the so-called devices used to aid those with mobility problems. They were wobbly, for one. They weren't comfortable, and often made more trouble than they were worth.

I knew without a doubt whoever invented them wasn't disabled. They could walk, get up, and had no idea of the basic obstacles a person who cannot move actually faces.

People don't understand that just one step at the front of their house is one step too many. I remember one nurse who was telling one man who was a recent amputee on a fixed income he could go home -- his house had "just" a couple of stairs, and he was trapped. She told him he could order groceries online -- and ignored him when he said that he couldn't afford the delivery charges, inflated prices, or even a computer and Internet connection.

Journalism collapsed. It is a dead profession, now spewing propaganda -- which makes it garbage -- but we have people pretending everything is just fine.

You have academics behaving like that nurse -- offering "obvious" advice that cannot be applied in reality under any circumstances.

And the reason their advice is meaningless is that they never studied journalism as journalists.

I did.

I did because I was sick of garbage being paraded as information.

People settled for that garbage because we had a deficient profession pretending everything was well, and those who study them never picking up the obvious because they were too far away to see the real structure problems killing it.

Everyone appealed to authority, and then thought bad things would just go away. Journalists kept patting themselves on the back as they gave themselves awards. Academics ignored the problems and their focus of study never included the most critical factors, meaning they wouldn't see the inevitable fall of an entire industry.

Had they been forced to study from the eye of the storm, they would have been as disturbed by the rot as I was.

Academia enabled journalism's collapse because scholars bought the romanticized ideal of the profession, treating traditional journalism as a gold standard, when it was lead that poisoned the information stream.

And that is not acceptable. 

We need information, and a way of getting it, and having it disseminated.

Journalism -- had it been useful -- wouldn't see its fortunes crumble in this way.

Academics had as long as journalists to study the profession and find solutions, but they never did.


I will be off for a couple of weeks, but I will be doing something else other than exposing the rot in journalism and their enablers when I return.

I have a new method, and am getting close to reveal it.

This post is just an introduction to my new home -- and I will see you soon with something new to offer...