I’ve been fighting back against fake and clickbait news sites on social media this entire election cycle. They were a scourge and played a large role in me having to utter the words “President Trump.”
For further reading:
“[W]e need better media than The Palmer Report if we want to claim liberals are better informed than conservatives.”
A blog posting fake news about the Wisconsin recount is causing some major confusion in Waukesha County… One such story posted on the website “The Palmer Report” cites an observer accusing officials of double-counting votes for Donald Trump… CBS 58 News reached out to the main contact at “The Palmer Report” to ask if he had followed up on any of the accusations before publishing, but there was no response.
Bill Palmer thinks knitters who write about politics are “stupid and shitty liberals” who “give good knitters a bad name.”
I’ve been a paralegal for twenty years. I can conduct legal research and write as well as an attorney. If you drop a case in my lap, I can perform all the work necessary to move the case to a conclusion.
Even though I can produce the same quality work product as an attorney, I cannot call myself an attorney and do attorney work. It’s unethical—one of the fundamental ethics rules for paralegals is being honest with our clients, attorneys, and the courts about who we are and what our role is.
Because of my paralegal training and background, my research skills are top-notch. Distilling facts and information into a persuasive argument is second nature—the same process as short writing.
These skills come in handy because I also like to write about politics. I compose my writing with a heightened level of paranoia. I expect a judge or an attorney to split hairs about everything I write, so I try not to make sloppy arguments. If I link to information, it’s from the very best source I could find.
When I’m researching an article, I’m extremely careful with my source material. I try to unearth primary sources from reputable sites. If I can’t do that, I’ll compare three or four articles on the same subject and see if the information is in alignment. I’ll look for slant, information about the writer, information about the publication – anything that provides a clue about the credibility (or lack thereof) of the information I include in my article. I follow the information breadcrumb trail until it vanishes.
Because of this blog, I have a fairly large social media footprint. Everything I say about who I am and what I do can be verified by an average Internet sleuth, and all paths lead to a real person – me.
If I’m writing an article about the Palmer Report, why am I telling you all of this?
Here’s why: You now know more about my ethics, training, career, research, and writing abilities than you do about Bill Palmer’s.
Why am I picking on the Palmer Report?
The Palmer Report caught my attention last week with the headline “Three Wisconsin precincts revise vote totals after being caught padding Donald Trump’s numbers.” (Emphasis mine.) It piqued my interest because, whoa—if someone was caught padding vote totals, that’s a HUGE story. The article said “evidence of either gross negligence or foul play has been exposed in three Wisconsin precincts, which has resulted in quite a number of phantom votes given to Donald Trump.” WOW! That is a big deal.
I checked out the two sources linked in the article. One was a tweet showing a change in vote totals. The second was a link to a news article about an error in the vote tally, which stated:
In order to give the election returns to the Outagamie County Clerk’s office as quickly as possible, the Chief Inspector added together with the votes from the election machine tapes. An error was made while keying the numbers on the calculator during this process, resulting in an incorrect number of votes reported on Election Night. The official process of tallying the votes was completed and rechecked. These vote numbers were recorded and delivered to the Outagamie County Clerk’s office on the morning of November 9th. The official tally reflects the accurate votes in the village.
Nowhere in any of the sources cited was there even a suggestion that any precincts were “caught padding” vote totals, nor was there any evidence of “gross negligence or foul play” or “phantom votes given to Donald Trump.” This is not a slant. This is misrepresenting the facts. This is the equivalent of writing an opinion piece (a conspiracy theory) and passing it off as journalism.
I’m picking on the Palmer Report because it’s kudzu. I see articles from the Palmer Report shared at least ten times a day, many times by organizations that should know better. Bill Palmer comes off as a liberal savior because he writes what we all want to hear. Of course, his articles get shared; they provide hope.
However, Palmer goes a step too far by holding himself out as a journalist. Being dishonest about who he is and what he is doing is dangerous. We must be more selective about the news articles we consume and share. If not, we become part of the problem.
Bill Palmer’s Background
I don’t like to point to a lack of information to prove a fact, but Bill Palmer, the journalist, does not exist outside of the confines of the Daily News Bin and Palmer Report. I could not find a LinkedIn profile or a bio with any publications or websites not created by him or any other journalistic credentials. He even admits that he has none.
He’s currently listed as the editor of BeatWeek, an online news magazine. I couldn’t get any of the magazine issues to open, but it appears the last issue was published on May 18th, 2015.
Update: After I published this post, a ghost from Bill Palmer’s past tipped me off that Palmer used to be a podcaster. It was so long ago that I thought it was irrelevant. As it turns out, the same criticism I’ve leveled here has been following Palmer around for years. For this reason alone, I’m updating this post to include this information.
He has no journalistic integrity, never cites a source to support anything he says, and generally makes stuff up and reports it as fact.
He disables comments so his message doesn’t get diluted by the truth.
Palmer talked about Apple products on the iOS Show. Related to this, he wrote for iProng Magazine (which redirects to BeatWeek). He also wrote for MyMac Magazine, but all the articles are now dead links.
A bad idea deserves to be exposed for what it is, and that’s exactly what I’ve been doing for the past week. Those who spend years spreading around a bad idea deserve to be called out for it, so no apologies to anyone who needs to be put in their place in the process.
Indeed, Bill. I don’t know a thing about the Mac Mini, but I couldn’t agree more with your sentiment here.
Before writing, he was a math major and a teacher.
That’s all I could find after a considerable effort.
What is the Palmer Report? Let’s find out together. It’s a personal editorial experiment, a side project, if you will, even as I continue to put my primary focus on the Daily News Bin. “In his introductory post, Bill Palmer makes it clear that his writing is an experiment in editorial content. Oh, no! I must be mistaken; he makes it clear that he is writing opinion pieces.
Not so fast.
I’m a political journalist who spent the past eighteen months reporting on the 2016 election cycle from start to finish for the independent news outlet Daily News Bin, a site that received a great deal of respect from those in knowledgable political circles, as well as the usual random barbs from internet trolls. As the publisher of an independent news site, I can promise you all of the following: Every one of our articles includes supporting source links for independent verification. If you’re not familiar with Palmer Report, you can use these links to confirm the accuracy of our reporting for yourself.
Some have inquired about my professional background. Prior to these past eighteen months, I had no previous background in political journalism whatsoever. And yet my reporting is often praised for being more honest, accurate, and timely than the reporting that comes from those who have been doing this their entire lives. In other words, such backgrounds don’t necessarily count for much.
If you see a new Palmer Report article and you’re wondering why you’re also not seeing similar headlines on major news outlets, give it a few days. The way these things tend to go is that an independent news outlet pieces together the facts, lays out all the supporting evidence and sources, and takes all the heat from those who are natural skeptics – only for the bigger news outlets to eventually report the same story days later, often without acknowledging that someone like me broke it first. That’s not a complaint. It’s just a day in the life of an independent news site.
While he suggested that he was writing editorial content in his introduction, he calls himself a political journalist on Palmer’s Report About page. An ethical journalist would ensure that distinction is clear. Palmer does not.
If you’re “wondering why you’re also not seeing similar headlines on major news outlets,” it is because major news outlets gather information, fact check, and engage in an editorial process before a news piece is published.
Reviewing a press release or news article, summarizing it, and slapping a clickbait headline on it is not journalism. It is blogging.
The Daily News Bin
“Daily News Bin is the place for politics and more. Founded in the summer of 2015, we provide news and commentary on the 2016 election as well as other important political and social issues.
If you scroll down to the “Facts about Daily News Bin” section on the About page, you’ll see a list of shout-outs to people who shared articles from the Daily News Bin. It’s laughable that this information is listed as “facts” on this “news” site. Social shares aren’t credentials or proof that this site is credible.
There hasn’t been a new article on the Daily News Bin since November 16th, 2016. The Daily News Bin’s Facebook page hasn’t recently posted any Daily News Bin content. Rather, all recent posts are shares of Palmer Report articles.
Articles in the Daily News Bin are generally high on hyperbole and thin on facts if no sources are cited at all. According to a news source, it fails most people’s sniff tests.
Donald Trump is Not My President.
Palmer also created the Donald Trump is Not My President Facebook group (public at the time of this article – I am not a member), where he regularly shares articles from the Palmer Report. Members were cautioned not to attack news sites.
If someone posts an article from a publication you haven’t heard of, it’s your prerogative to research it or ignore it. But it’s not appropriate to arbitrarily accuse an article or news source of being “fake news” or “satire” or “does anyone know if this is real?” just because you haven’t heard of it. For instance, I’m the publisher of Palmer Report and Daily News Bin, two respected news outlets, and there are plenty of other respected independent news sites that are often more honest than the mainstream media. Don’t randomly commit libel against any news site just because you’re unfamiliar with it. This is a cardinal sin (a violation of civil law), and you’ll be banned for it.
Do you know who makes rules like these? People who get called out for creating clickbait “news” sites like Palmer Report and the Daily News Bin. He even waves the “if you criticize my sites, you are committing libel” hammer at his own group members. Not only does he not understand journalism, but he also doesn’t understand the law, either.
Real journalists don’t make rules like these because they care about the truth in reporting. When someone points out a factual error in an article, either they correct it, or an editor does.
Considering how harmful fake and poor quality news sites were during this election, we should welcome people to challenge news sources. The bar should be raised, not lowered. High-quality news is vital now more than ever.
Why is the Palmer Report not a Credible Source of Information?
The headlines in the Palmer Report and Daily News Bin are purposefully misleading. The headlines and the claims made in the articles tend not to be supported by the sources cited in the article. So, they are opinion pieces, not news articles. This would be fine if they were clearly labeled as editorial content, but they aren’t.
There’s no indication that an editorial process is in place, nor does Palmer appear to independently gather facts from primary sources. I’m not saying he doesn’t have an editorial process, but rather there is no evidence of one. To illustrate this point, compare the “Facts about the Daily News Bin” to NPR’s ethics and standards.
Social proof is not evidence of quality or value. There is no evidence of anything other than “I wrote a thing, and someone clicked and shared it.” Palmer is masterful at creating clickbait-type headlines and building communities, leading to social proof he points to as evidence of his credibility. Having articles shared by political figures, celebrities, and other news sites is evidence of nothing but the share itself. Again, all of this would be fine if he were honest about who he is – a political blogger.
Lack of journalistic experience and credentials isn’t such a big deal these days. I’ve written a few political pieces myself. The problem I have with the Palmer Report isn’t that Bill Palmer is writing about politics. The problem is that he is a political blogger who is calling himself a journalist.
To make his sites appear more credible, Palmer disparages other news sources and tries to intimidate people into not speaking out against him. Wolves don’t lose sleep over the opinions of sheep.
Following the path backwards, BeatWeek stopped publishing in May of 2015. The Daily News Bin opened up shop shortly thereafter. The Daily News Bin hasn’t been active since November 16th, 2016, and Palmer Report is getting all of the love. It smells like someone following the money trail straight to the jackpot. You can’t fault someone for that, but you should give any information they provide the weight it deserves.
In the aftermath of this election, there is a growing mistrust of the mainstream media. Donald Trump is doing everything he can to fan those flames. It’s hard enough to find good sources of independent journalism. Sites like Palmer Report and the Daily News in muddy the waters and do the search for quality sources of information that are much more difficult.
Fighting back against misinformation is time-consuming and a waste of effort that could be better spent on moving the ball forward. It’s bad enough that we have it coming from the right. When we also have to spend time addressing misinformation on our own side, it undermines the very effort we are trying to support.
Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you are the thing. I can do attorney work but can’t call myself an attorney. I can write articles, but I can’t call myself a journalist. That’s ethics.
So, Mr. Palmeg, I’m asking you to use your powers for good if you’re reading. People love your political commentary, and you should keep doing that if it makes you happy. But don’t contribute to our misinformation problem by calling what you do journalism, and don’t call being the first to publish button-breaking news. Call it what it is: aggressive blogging for monetary gain.
Let’s Talk About It.
If you want to verify a news source, this article on FactCheck.org offers the following tips:
- Consider this source:
- Read beyond the headline:
- Check the author’s
- Review the supporting sources.
- Check the date of the article.
- Check your biases, and
- Use fact-checking sites like Snopes, FactCheck, Politifact, and the Washington Post Fact Checker.
On fact-checking, NPR says:
- Most sites will have a lot of information about the news outlet, the company that runs it, members of leadership, and the mission and ethics statement behind an organization. The language used here is straightforward. If it’s melodramatic and seems overblown, you should be skeptical. You should also be able to find out more about the organization’s leaders in places other than the site.
- Look at the quotes… Or rather, look at the lack of quotes. Most publications have multiple sources in each story who are professionals and have expertise in the fields they talk about. If it’s a serious or controversial issue, there are more likely to be quotes—and lots of them.
- [The headlines of fake news stories will] often be written in exaggerated language with the intention of being misleading and then attached to stories that are about completely different topics or just not true. These stories usually generate a lot of comments on Facebook or Twitter. If a lot of these comments call out the article as being fake or misleading, it probably is.
Just because it isn’t fake news doesn’t mean that it is reliable or credible news. This recent post has a list of independent news sites. The articles may have a slant, but corporations and politicians do not fund the sites.
How do you vet your news sources?