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.