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Saturday, October 24, 2020
MRC Annoyed When Its 'Junk News' Is Critiqued
Topic: Media Research Center

As much as it loves to bash and insult those it purports to critique, the Media Research Center has never been good at taking criticism. In an Oct. 5 MRC post, Corinne Weaver complained that the Oxford Internet Institute -- which she attacked last year for keeping an eye on right-wing "junk news" sites like the MRC's NewsBusters -- once again called out NewsBusters for serving "junk news":

In the briefing published on Oct. 5, 2020, the institute slammed nine pieces written and published in American conservative outlets such as NewsBusters, The Daily Caller, The Heritage Foundation’s The Daily Signal, BizPac Review, The Daily Wire and The Blaze. According to the Oxford Internet Institute (OII), these sites are considered “junk news.”

OII defined “junk news” as “... sources deliberately publish misleading, deceptive or incorrect information purporting to be real news about politics, economics or culture. This content includes various forms of propaganda and ideologically extreme, hyperpartisan or conspiratorial news and information.”


The briefing named a piece by NewsBusters managing editor Curtis Houck as an example of the  “sharp criticism … levied against the reactions of mainstream media.” Even though the article in question was merely a wrap-up of quotes from NBC concerning the presidential debate that took place on Sept. 30, OII considered it “one of the best-fitting articles in the topic model of the previous section.” The issue with this characterization of the piece as “junk news” is that in the previous section, the only model given about pieces concerning the debate was that it “included words such as ‘Biden’, ‘debate’, ‘Trump’, ‘Wallace’, and ‘election’. This topic concerned the first US Presidential debate held on Tuesday night.”

Weaver is being disingenuous about the nature of OII's criticism of Houck's piece. It pointed out how right-wing websites' reactions to the debate fell into certain patterns: attacking moderator Chris Wallace, criticizing Biden's language without criticizing Trump's similar language, and bashing the media's reaction to the debate. That last point is what Houck's post got dinged on. Here's what OII wrote, since Weaver won't tell you:

Further, sharp criticism was levied against the reactions of mainstream media. A Daily Wire article with over 20,000 engagements detailed a CNN’s panel response to the debate, and although it mentioned Trump’s refusal to denounce white supremacy, it also claimed that Biden was the one that sunk to personal insults. Another article from NewsBusters that had comparatively few engagements at over 3,000 but was one of the best-fitting articles in the topic model of the previous section employed a similar strategy with NBC’s panel reaction.

Weaver didn't offer any rebuttal to OII's criticism -- just complained that it was made. Instead, she noted OII's definitionvof "junk news" and huffed, "By this definition, BuzzFeed would be 'junk news.'"

That's how you know the MRC is not engaged in "media research."

Posted by Terry K. at 10:47 AM EDT

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