REAL FAKE NEWS
from the Ken LaCorte Report
The LA Times published the story about student homelessness and “food insecurity” at an emotional press conference with public officials and sympathetic, crying students.
The headline sounds unbelievable, though, because it isn’t true.
WHAT’S IN A WORD?
The story conjures masses of homeless students primarily because the study expands the meaning of the word “homeless.” For instance, you are considered homeless even if for one night out of the year you didn’t know where you were going to sleep. Your parents kicked you out, so you went to a friend’s house? For this study, you’re homeless. Evicted from your apartment over the past year? Homeless.
BAD METHODOLOGY TOO
Neither the group nor participating schools actually talked to a scientific sampling of students. Instead, they emailed thousands, asking them to fill out a survey online. Less than 5% actually did, something few pollsters would take seriously.
The authors even admit this, saying that “the findings in this study are limited by low response rates and potentially non-random sampling. Students experiencing food and housing insecurity may have been more likely to respond to the survey…” You wouldn’t know this from the article, though, which didn’t even provide a link to the study.
WHERE DID IT COME FROM?
A good first step in spotting iffy “news” like this is to look at its source. In this instance, it wasn’t by an unbiased research company, but the Wisconsin HOPE Lab, an advocacy group based out of Washington D.C. It describes itself as “the nation’s first laboratory for translational research aimed at improving equitable outcomes in postsecondary education.”
Polls created by organizations with a mission, unsurprisingly, nearly always end up with poll results supporting that mission. This was one.
HOW TO MAKE FAKE NEWS
In short, an advocacy group working to help poor students published a study that showed students are really, really poor. Public officials tout it to convince voters and other government agencies that something must be done.
At that point, a good news organization would investigate the claims and provide context. The LA Times didn’t do that. Instead, it simply reported the contentions with an eye-grabbing headline, something more similar to public relations than journalism.
In fairness to the LA Times, this study was done in conjunction with 70 colleges and has been published in different areas by dozens of news outlets. Undoubtedly more will be “reported” in the future.
Whether you call it “fake” news or not, this is a great example of how advocates and a lazy — or complicit — press create false narratives and manipulate the truth to further their goals.
Ken LaCorte is a former Fox News executive of nearly two decades who is currently working on starting up his own real news network, LaCorte News. It’ll feature facts, not opinions. Fair stories designed to inform you, not convince you to vote for any candidate.