Unethical Website Of The Month: “News Right Now”

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I never heard of “News Right Now,” until Sean Hannity and maybe Donald Trump fell for one of the Onion wannabe’s fake news stories. That, of course, is what such sites live for—to get some prominent publication, pundit or news commentator to fall for a satirical story and get the site’s name in the real news. In this case, it was NRN’s not very funny and not completely unbelievable (for the Obama administration anyway} item titled U.S. to House 250,000 Syrian Refugees at Navajo, Standing Rock Indian Reservations.

I don’t have any sympathy for Hannity. There are fake news sites all over the web; by now journalists should be taking care that they aren’t accepting a spoof as fact, and passing it on to add more confusion and information pollution to public discourse. Using this gag story was lazy, incompetent, careless and inexcusable. Hannity let confirmation bias over come whatever common sense he has, just like my retired liberal journalist friend, who has posted on Facebook ridiculous fake stories about Republicans saying crazy things. To be fair, in a nation where a member of Congress openly worries about Guam tipping over, who knows what is too silly to be true?

That’s the problem with News Right Now. Certainly NRN is a lot cleverer and funnier than the News Nerd, the lowest of the low, but it employs the same dishonest and intentionally misleading device: it does not prominently signal that it is a parody site, clearly and plainly, on its home page. Even in the “About” page, the site isn’t transparent that it  is satire. You have to read the bio of the supposed “investigative reporter” who writes the reports. It’s pretty funny:

R. Hobbus J.D. is an internationally acclaimed independent investigative journalist specializing in international politics, health, business, science, conflict resolution, history, geography, mathematics, social issues, feminism, space travel, civil rights, human rights, animal rights, fashion, film, astronomy, classic literature, religion, biology, paranormal activity, the occult, physics, psychology, and creative writing. He has appeared in countless publications including Time Magazine, Newsweek, Playboy, The Economist, The New York Times, Mad Magazine, Hustler, Guns & Ammo, People, Maxim Magazine, Highlights, The 9/11 Commission Report, The New Yorker, Bon Appetite, Rolling Stone, Car & Driver, Soldier of Fortune, Elle, Nintendo Power, National Geographic, and many more. He has received numerous awards for his work including the prestigious Stephen Glass Distinction in Journalistic Integrity (2011), The Oscar Mayer Award for Journalistic Excellence (2003), three Nobel Peace Prize nominations, one Pulitzer in Investigative Reporting (1998), and two Pulitzer Prizes in Commentary (1996, 2008). He resides comfortably in his modest home overlooking the coast of Nantucket surrounded by his wife and twelve cats.

It’s also pretty obvious, if you know anything and aren’t stupid. But many people are stupid (Read the comments. Most commenters believe the stories, and the syntax and spelling is beyond belief), and lots of journalists are. The tip-off is “Stephen Glass,” but it wouldn’t surprise me if  Fox News had some interns who have no idea who he is.

Real News Now is a satire site, and a pretty good one; The News Nerd is a hoax site. A satire site that doesn’t announce the fact is both, and hoax sites are unethical, scum of the web.

“This is a satire site, and for entertainment value only” should be high on the home page as well as on every story’s page. If it isn’t, then a website is trying to fool people. No matter how funny the satire or how gullible the victims, web hoaxes aren’t jokes. They are lies.

 

9 thoughts on “Unethical Website Of The Month: “News Right Now”

  1. Took me a while to remember Steven Glass is the guy who fabricated stories and is trying to become a plaintiff’s lawyer in California. Phillip Glass came to my addled mind.

    I like the bio. When I clerked one summer at the South Bend City attorney’s office, we dummied-up a faux job applicant’s resume to submit to the City Attorney. Under “Personal Interests” we listed “Dynamite.”

    This was back in the late ’70s. A different world I suppose.

  2. My bias may be showing big time, but anything that embarrasses Sean Hannity is, in my never-to-be-humble opinion, not only socially valuable but inherently ethical. Sean Hannity is a moron. If he and his crack staff of researchers couldn’t figure out that the story was fake (especially considering the author’s bio and other stories attributed to him [for instance, “Starbucks Opens 5 Stores in Jordan’s 2nd Largest Refugee Camp”]), then frankly, he deserves every ounce of ridicule dumped upon him. I mean, the Steven Glass award reference wasn’t necessarily apparent, but someone should have been clued in by the reference to being surrounded by his wife and 12 cats. What real reporter would allow himself or herself (or cyself!) to be surrounded by 12 cats? That’s a lot of mouths to feed when you are busy chasing down news stories.

    jvb

  3. You can’t hold funny people accountable for the fact that there are idiots in the world who have Internet access. Or for the fact that actual journalists have somehow lost all ability to fact-check. There are people out there STILL falling for Onion articles, for heaven’s sake. Five seconds worth of review of the website makes it obvious it’s satire.

    If you fall for a joke, you can’t blame the joke for lying to you.

    • Oh, bullshit. If you present yourself as a news site, then you don’t get to tell jokes. And if your jokes aren’t funny or obvious enough that they are easily recognized as such, it’s your fault, not your victim. Arguing that someone who accepts as true what you lie by printing as true is 100% at fault because they didn’t check is the same rationalization the con men used to blame their marks.

      The Onion is very clear that it is a satire site. So you think that because people mistake clearly marked joke articles on The Onion as real, that excuses a site from NOT marking hoax stories as real, eh? That’s like saying that since people still get hurt when there are DANGER signs around construction sites, a site that posts no signs isn’t at fault when people get hurt there.

      Wow. That’s some logic..

      • No, I think that in an age when I can access nearly the compendium of human knowledge from a computer that fits in my back pocket, ignorance is inexcusable. It takes maybe 30 seconds of googling to figure out if a news article bears any semblance of truth. I mean, it depends on your internet speed. Mine is pretty super. Anyway, considering the fact that RNRN has been debunked on snopes more than once, falling for their satire isn’t just stupid, it’s LAZY.

        • That’s right, and preying on trusting, lazy, gullible people, is, was, and always shall be wrong. The website could easily, like the Onion, state up front what it is. It WANTS to fool people and start rumors.Well, there are too many lies and falsities on the internet already.

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