19 episodes

"Is that a fact?" is produced by the non-partisan national education non-profit the News Literacy Project. It seeks to inform listeners about news literacy issues that affect their lives through informative conversations with experts working to combat misinformation.

Is that a fact‪?‬ The News Literacy Project

    • Education
    • 4.8 • 37 Ratings

"Is that a fact?" is produced by the non-partisan national education non-profit the News Literacy Project. It seeks to inform listeners about news literacy issues that affect their lives through informative conversations with experts working to combat misinformation.

    Sandy Hook at 10: Tragedy, conspiracy theories and justice (Part 2)

    Sandy Hook at 10: Tragedy, conspiracy theories and justice (Part 2)

    This episode of “Is that a Fact?” is part two of a two-part episode marking the 10th anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on Dec. 14, 2012, when a gunman murdered 20 first graders and six adults. If you haven’t listened to part one, in which we interview New York Times feature writer and author of the book, Sandy Hook: An American Tragedy and the Battle for Truth, we highly recommend that you do that first. 

    In part two, we speak with Lenny Pozner, father of Noah, the youngest victim at Sandy Hook. Pozner knew early on that the hoaxers’ movement would be widespread, lasting and harmful. So, he chose to fight back on behalf of his child and other victims. “Noah’s story will always need to be told because there’ll always be someone misusing it,” he said. “I knew that I needed to do everything that I’m able to do to help debunk, to help clarify, to tell my story as best as I can, which really is just telling Noah’s story.” 

    Over the two episodes we explore the aftermath of Sandy Hook and how what seemed an aberration of untruths would instead be a bellwether for a shift in the country’s public discourse, where conspiracy theories are a common element of tragic events. We also discuss how victims’ families have fought back against the lies and harassment and brought about lasting change.

    Additional Reading:
    HONR Network

    • 45 min
    Sandy Hook at 10: Tragedy, conspiracy theories and justice (Part 1)

    Sandy Hook at 10: Tragedy, conspiracy theories and justice (Part 1)

    This episode of “Is that a Fact?” is part one of a two-part episode marking the 10th anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, on Dec. 14, 2012, when a gunman murdered 20 first graders and six adults. Soon after, conspiracy theories calling the massacre a hoax emerged. And they have persisted for a decade, thanks to amplification and profiteering by alt-Right media figure Alex Jones.

     Over the two episodes we explore the aftermath of Sandy Hook and how what seemed an aberration of untruths would instead be a bellwether for a shift in the country’s public discourse, where conspiracy theories are a common element of tragic events. We also discuss how victims’ families have fought back against the lies and harassment and brought about lasting change.

    In part one, Elizabeth Williamson, New York Times feature writer and author of the book, Sandy Hook: An American Tragedy and the Battle for Truth, explains the incomprehensible need to deny reality and the lucrative market that exploits people’s vulnerability. “He is a sort of Typhoid Mary of the Sandy Hook hoax,” Williamson said of Jones, noting he “has been there at every stop along our descent as a nation down the rabbit hole.”

    Additional Reading: 
    Elizabeth Williamson author page on NYTimes.comSandy Hook: An American Tragedy and the Battle for TruthElizabeth Williamson on Twitter

    • 47 min
    Are journalists getting the immigration story right?

    Are journalists getting the immigration story right?

    In this episode, we interview Dr. Reece Jones, chair of the Department of Geography and Environment at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and author of White Borders: The History of Race and Immigration in the United States from Chinese Exclusion to the Border Wall, for an overview of the most enduring false narratives that have shaped our public conversations about immigration.

    We then speak to Roberto Suro, a professor of journalism and public policy and the associate director of the Price Center on Social Innovation at the University of Southern California. Suro helped us explore how the news media covers immigration and how that coverage helps shape people’s perception of the issue.

    Bear with us during this episode. At times you maybe ask yourself, how does this relate to the news media. But remember this: to be a critical consumer of news and information about immigration, you need to have an understanding of the policies that have shaped immigrations in our country’s history.

    On a previous episode, we explored the perception gap between Democrats and Republicans and of course the subject of immigration came up. It's a subject we wanted to continue to look at  because it's a hot button issue that will only become more heated as climate change alters migration patterns around the world in the years to come. Immigration will shape the cultural makeup of the US, future voting patterns, and whether America, a country that many would say is made stronger by its immigrant population, can continue to gain strength through balanced immigration policies. But it's also an issue rife with mis- and disinformation, false narratives, our theme for the season, some of which are even perpetuated in the news media and we wanted to dispel them by consulting experts armed with facts and lived experience.

    Is that a fact? is brought to you by the nonpartisan, non-profit News Literacy Project. For more information, go to newslit.org.
    Related links:
    White Borders: The History of Race and Immigration in the United States from Chinese Exclusion to the Border Wall, Reece Jones, 2021"'Illegal, 'undocumented,' 'unauthorized': News media shift language on immigration", Pew Research Center, 2013"'illegal immigrant' no more," Associated Press, April 2, 2013"California Dreaming: The New Dynamism in Immigration Federalism and Opportunities for Inclusion in a Variegated Landscape," Roberto Suro, August 8, 2018"We see all immigrants as either legal or illegal. Big mistake." Roberto Suro, July 13, 2012

    • 53 min
    Disinformation and Russia’s War in Ukraine

    Disinformation and Russia’s War in Ukraine

    In this episode we talk to two journalists covering the Russian invasion of Ukraine to help us better understand how disinformation and propaganda are obscuring, or outright contradicting, the facts, both within Russia and beyond its borders. 

    Our first guest, Roman Anin, is a Pulitzer Prize-winner and founder and editor-in-chief of the Russian news portal iStories and a former investigative journalist for the recently shuttered Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta. Now living in exile and labeled a so-called “foreign agent” by the Russian government, Anin tells us why “propaganda is like radiation” and how hard it is for Russians today to access news from independent sources.
    After hearing about Putin’s 20-year campaign to restrict press freedom and control the media narrative, we talk to Elyse Samuels, a member of the The Washington Post visual forensics team, about her role in verifying images and videos for breaking and ongoing news events like the war in Ukraine.

    Is that a fact? is brought to you by the nonpartisan, non-profit News Literacy Project. For more information, go to newslit.org.
    Related links:
    Russian police raid home of prominent journalist Roman Anin, The Guardian'Our job is to save history': Russian journalist on exposing Putin's lies, ViceOpinion: Putin tolerated some critical voices in his 22-year assault on Russian media. His war in Ukraine ends even that, Committee to Protect JournalistsRussian attacks hit at least 9 Ukrainian medical facilities, visual evidence shows, The Washington PostSome survivors emerge from rubble of theater bombed by Russia, Ukranian officials say, The Washington Post

    • 1 hr 6 min
    The politicization of the pandemic

    The politicization of the pandemic

    In this episode, we set out to explore whether false narratives about the pandemic and the COVID-19 vaccines have overshadowed science or whether science has managed to hold its own, particularly in light of the politicization of the pandemic.
    Politics has certainly influenced who has chosen to get vaccinated. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, “there continue to be differences in COVID-19 vaccination rates along partisan lines, a gap that has grown over time.” The Kaiser study showed that almost 53 percent of people who live in counties that voted for Biden were fully vaccinated compared to nearly 40 percent of people in counties that went to Trump. 
    To better understand why people continue to reject overwhelming scientific evidence supporting the safety of the vaccines when compared to the dangers posed by the virus, we spoke to three people to learn more about the false narratives surrounding COVID-19 and the vaccines. Our first guest is Dr. Katherine J. Wu, a staff writer for The Atlantic who has a PhD in microbiology and immunobiology from Harvard University and has covered many different aspects of the coronavirus since the pandemic began. She tells us that when there is a crisis like this pandemic, it’s not unusual for misinformation to follow and spread confusion.
    Our second guest is Texas resident Tony Green, a Republican voter who has written about his first-hand experience with COVID-19. In June 2020, Green and his partner invited six family members to spend the weekend at their home in Dallas. At the time, Green was still referring to the pandemic as a “scamdemic” — wildly blown out of proportion. But over the course of that weekend, he developed symptoms of COVID-19 that would eventually land him and some his extended family in the hospital. In all, the virus spread to 14 members of his family and took the lives of two of them. (Starts at 18:25).
    Our third and final guest is U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy who tells us why he issued his “Confronting Health Misinformation” advisory and a special toolkit to help people learn how to navigate their way through all the false and misleading information not just about the virus and vaccines, but about all kinds of health-related topics. (Starts at 35:32).
    Is that a fact? is brought to you by the nonpartisan, non-profit News Literacy Project. For more information, go to newslit.org.
    Related links:
     Confronting Health Misinformation: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on Building a Health Information EnvironmentA Community Toolkit for Addressing Health Misinformation“What are we so afraid of?” Tony Green, as told to Saslow, Washington PostA harsh lesson in the reality of COVID-19, Tony Green, DallasVoiceCoronavirus reporting, by Katherine J. Wu

    • 52 min
    Perception or reality: Just how divided is America, really?

    Perception or reality: Just how divided is America, really?

    In this episode, we set out to explore whether the narrative of the country’s deep political polarization is fiction or reality. If you follow the news, you’ve probably heard that the country is deeply divided on political issues. Since 1992, no presidential candidate has received more than 53% of the popular vote. In recent years, Congress has routinely been deadlocked over some of the country’s most pressing issues. But what’s going on in the Capitol is not necessarily reflected in the hearts of many Americans. In fact, when you step back, it turns out most of us are more moderate than this narrative of extremes would suggest. 
    For this episode, our first guest is U.S. director of More in Common, Dan Vallone, who discusses research into what his organization has dubbed the “perception gap”. 
    Then, we talk to former Republican Member of Congress Charlie Dent about his experience on the Hill as a moderate representing the swing state of Pennsylvania. (Starts at 27:40).
    And finally, we conclude this episode in conversation with Charles Whitaker, the Dean of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, who calls out the news media for playing up the us-versus-them narrative of political polarization and shares what schools like his are doing to encourage their students to take a new approach. (Starts at 46:00).
    Is that a fact? is brought to you by the nonpartisan, non-profit News Literacy Project. For more information, go to newslit.org.
    The Perception Gap Quiz The Perception Gap findings“The US army veteran who's using his Harvard MBA to do good,” BusinessBecause, Sept. 24, 2019. “Charlie Dent’s War,” Politico Magazine, July 28, 2017 "Meet Charles Whitaker, Dean of the Medill School of Journalism," KUT 90.5, June 10, 2020

    • 1 hr 5 min

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5
37 Ratings

37 Ratings

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