“Mutation” of Science Misinformation

Since the news media environment went digital, outlets now have the ability to update online content continuously, removing and editing information without any oversight. This breaks the information flow process: news stories no longer represent “a snapshot in time” but instead living, “mutating” organisms. It also enables the creation and spread of misinformation. The type of changes being made are not yet known or widely researched. To better understand this issue, I conducted a textual analysis of 100 diffengine images, as well as thirteen in-depth case studies on the NewsDiffs website, focusing on content changes at the New York Times website. Through my analysis, I have found three overarching themes: “developing story”, “change in tone”, and “correcting inaccuracy”.

By identifying these themes, I hope to shed light on this vital, yet largely unknown complication in the process of information dissemination within the greater media network.

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Ania KorsunskaComment
Viral Networks: Does Misinformation Spread like a Virus?

We all know that journalists are called upon to inform the public of the new and important things of the day, whether it is events around the world or the newest medical breakthrough. But, as everything has moved online and become an open space for the public to participate in, journalists are no longer solely in charge of this space. Though this change opened up the great opportunity for everyone to be "journalists" in the way that they can post information for others to see, unfortunately, this has also helped give rise to the creation and dissemination of misinformation, or "fake news".

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Ania KayComment
In search of consensus in a world of scientific uncertainty: An exploration of journalistic practices

When it comes to scientific knowledge, there is a common misconception that it is fixed, representing a certain exiting truth, when in reality, science is an ever-changing landscape of puzzles and mysteries. Journalists have long been a trusted agent in the dissemination of science information, but it isn't clear how they deal with the ambiguity and shifting truth of the scientific literature. Since they have the power to impact the public's perception of scientific issues, it is very important to understand how they deal with this uncertainty and constant change.

Through a textual analysis of contradicting news coverage and in-depth interviews of both general assignment and science journalists, this study explores these questions, with a specific focus on how journalists approach research for an article, evaluate sources of information and deal with contradiction. The themes emerging from these conversations speak to professionals dealing with a changing world, evolving media environment and the need for clarity.

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Why does it seem like everything causes cancer?

Despite many advancements in medicine and overall cancer death rates steadily declining, every day we see more and more news about things that cause or prevent cancer. Some studies have shown that this overexposure to cancer-related news can create fatalistic perceptions. In other words, the perception that "everything causes cancer". This notion is only incorrect in itself, but also causes a variety of other related issues. If everything causes cancer, then leading a healthy lifestyle, giving up harmful habits or going for regular check ups seems like a waste of time. The question arises: where are these fatalistic perceptions of reality coming from? This study was designed to test one possible answer to this question: whether traditional and online newspapers are a contributing factor to these perceptions.

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Ania KorsunskaComment
Citing Misinformation: A Lifecycle Case Study

We live in an age when there is unprecedented access to information through the Internet. Though this provides the ability for the world to become more connected, educated and informed on global news, the downside is that information online constantly changes, and the pace and extent of this change is not something the general population is aware of. As information changes, facts are often distorted through oversimplification and exaggeration to attract readership, leading to the creation and spread of misinformation. In this project, I aimed to explore how this process takes place through analyzing the life cycle of a specific academic article.

Fake news and misinformation is one of the most salient problems of our time. In the future, I hope to add to the growing literature on this subject by replicating this type of network analysis study on a greater scale. This would enable me to make conclusions about the general trends of how information spreads throughout the media, and continue to trace the life cycle of science information and, even more importantly, misinformation, back to its sources.

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