How fake news is born and evolves: Follow the bouncing story line

How fake news is born and evolves: Follow the bouncing story line
Sharon Jones (Image: YouTube screen grab via Only Jazz)

Some good news and some bad news. First, the good: Prof. Melissa (“Mish”) Zimdars’s list of “fake news” site, which included LU, has been taken offline. The bad news is that the Google doc that Zimdars, who teaches at Merrimack College in Massachusettes, published last week now carries the advice that the removal is only temporary — that the original list will eventually “be transferred to and expanded on in a more permanent, dynamic, and collaborative home.” Oh, goody: A shrine to fake news as seen through the eyes of a diehard liberal.

While we all wait for the new list to emerge Phoenix-like, I thought it might prove instructive to take a peak under the hood of one news story and see how real misinformation begins and ultimately takes on a life of its own.

We begin with an obituary from the Los Angeles Times, which on Sunday reported that soul singer Sharon Jones had lost her battle with pancreatic cancer. The article notes thtat Gabriel Ross, whose band, the Dap-Tones, played backup for Jones, was at the singer’s bedside at the time of her passing. From the story comes this tidbit:

Jones, Roth said in an interview Saturday, suffered a stroke on Nov. 8 — election night — as she was watching the returns. He immediately flew to Cooperstown N.Y., where she was in the hospital, and summoned the rest of the band.

“She told the people that were there that Trump gave her the stroke,” said Roth, laughing.

The date and time lines reveal that the article was published online at 9:20 a.m. of Nov. 20. A little more than four hours later — at 1:51 p.m. — a post at The Hill, which cited the  L.A. Times story as a source, carried the headline “Musician Sharon Jones ‘blamed’ Trump for stroke: report.” Here are the opening paragraphs:

Singer Sharon Jones, who had been suffering from pancreatic cancer, reportedly blamed President-elect Donald Trump for a stroke she had on election night, according to the Los Angeles Times.

“She told the people that were there that Trump gave her the stroke,” Jones’ band mate, Gabriel Roth, told the newspaper of the 60-year-old, who died Friday.

“Well, she’d been fighting fighting cancer for a few years now, and there’s been all kinds of stuff coming at her. But the thing that actually got her in the last couple of weeks was, she had a stroke watching the election results,” he said.

Careful readers will have noticed that an important word that was in the original — laughing, used to convey the tone of Gabriel Roth’s comment about Jones’s stroke — has been omitted.

On to the version of the story that ran on the same day at Lee Bailey’s EurWeb. Here’s the headline: “Was Sharon Jones Death Caused by Donald Trump’s Election?” And here are the opening three paragraphs:

*As we reported earlier, Sharon Jones, the soulfully explosive vocalist for the Dap-Kings band reportedly passed away last Friday (11-18-16) at the age of 60 from cancer. But, there’s more to the story, we’re finding out.

It seems Jones also suffered a stroke which was induced by Donald Trump winning the recently concluded presidential election.

Dap-Kings member Gabriel Roth told the LA Times that Jones was watching election day coverage when the stroke had occurred. He told the news outlet that when he went to visit Jones in the hospital that night (Nov. 8), she pointed to the presidential results as the cause of her health condition, which, according to Roth, ultimately led to her death.

By the following day, the emphasis has shifted appreciably in a retelling at the website A Journal of Musical Things, which uses the K-word in its headline: “The Dap-Kings’ Sharon Jones Killed by Donald Trump?”

I’m sure that if one were committed to following this game of “Telephone” to its illogical conclusion, eventually he would arrive at an article titled “Donald Trump murders black woman.”

Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy

Howard Portnoy has written for The Blaze, HotAir, NewsBusters, Weasel Zippers, Conservative Firing Line, RedCounty, and New York’s Daily News. He has one published novel, Hot Rain, (G. P. Putnam’s Sons), and has been a guest on Radio Vice Online with Jim Vicevich, The Alana Burke Show, Smart Life with Dr. Gina, and The George Espenlaub Show.


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