Not all news stories are created equal. In fact, some aren’t really news at all – but can you tell the difference? Take our true or false test with the five news stories below.
1. The terrorist attack you’ve never heard of
The Bowling Green Massacre was an act of American domestic terrorism, masterminded by two Iraqi insurgents who killed an unknown number of American soldiers in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Despite no reporting on the attack at the time it occurred, it quickly became front page news when Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway referred to the attack on three separate occasions, in part to publicly support the Trump administration’s Muslim travel ban.
True or false? False. This was a non-story from the outset. Fact checkers immediately revealed that no such attack had ever occurred; Conway backtracked rapidly, claiming she was referring to the ‘Bowling Green terrorists’, two Iraqi citizens living in Bowling Green who attempted to send funds
2. Lattes are deconstructed now, apparently
Back in the good old days, you’d go to a café, order a latte and receive a cup containing coffee and maybe some sort of steamed milk. But those days are gone: Australian writer Jamila Rizvi recently found herself staring down a ‘deconstructed coffee’ in a Melbourne café. Comprised of a beaker of espresso, a beaker of milk and a third beaker of what looks like hot water, the deconstructed coffee is basically the caffeine equivalent of buying a sandwich and then being forced to make it yourself.
True or false? This one’s true, although you may wonder why anyone – including the countless news outlets that picked up the story – cares. At any rate, while the original info came from Rizvi’s Facebook account (that hub of non-newsworthy news), she confirmed the story in numerous interviews, and at least one reputable news outlet also spoke directly to the café owner to find out
what would possess someone to ruin a perfectly good coffee like that how the deconstructed coffee came about. And no news outlet summed up the story better than Mashable, which described it as “peak hipsterdom and how the world ends.”
3. Hilary Clinton has Parkinson’s
Is there anything this woman can’t do? As well as running a prostitution ring out of a pizza shop in Washington DC, Hilary Clinton has been hiding a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and used a body double to cover up her symptoms during the 2016 elections. The claims emerged after Clinton collapsed leaving a 9/11 memorial event. According to her team, she’d been suffering from pneumonia – but not everyone was buying it.
True or false? False. The dead giveaway for this one was that the claims came from people with a vested interest in Clinton’s downfall (such as Veterans for Trump co-chair Daniel Tamburello), or from quasi-famous people with no relevant qualifications (including non-doctor Tony Brasunas, the lunatics at InfoWars, and pharma-bro Martin Shkreli), anonymous ‘medical’ sources and a bunch of Twitter trolls, presumably some with Russian connections. The claims have been thoroughly debunked – even the National Parkinson’s Foundation has weighed in, announcing that the “available information does not in any way support a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease.”
4. The one where the ranger gives himself a parking ticket
Nobody likes getting parking tickets, so when a Sydney parking ranger accidentally ticketed his own car, there were very few people who didn’t have a good old smirk – until they realised they were voluntarily watching this crap on Channel 9’s Weekend Today show. According to the story, the ranger made “an honest mistake” while out on his ticketing round, giving himself a fine of $104. Rather than accept the ticket, he opted to contest it in Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court.
True or false? False. Satirical news site The Betoota Advocate was behind this story, but apparently checking your sources is a noob’s game. A subsequent Media Watch smackdown pointed out that Betoota, while a real town, is completely uninhabited, making it unlikely it’d have either a newspaper or anyone to buy it. Even a glance at the newspaper’s website is a glaring red flag – recent headlines include Majority Of Australian Worksite Accidents Found To Be She’ll-Be-Right-Related. Oh, Channel 9 *shakes head*.
5. Kanye for President!
Sometime musician and full-time megalomaniac Kanye West has is planning to run for the US Presidency. He originally named 2020 as the year that he’ll try to convince America that celebrities, not people with any actual understanding of politics, should run the world – after all,
the human Cheeto Donald Trump is already showing us just how well that works.
True or false? As much we probably all wish this was a hoax, West was caught on video announcing his presidential aspirations at the 2015 VMAs – a statement that was picked up by international media, including The Guardian, Time, and ABC News. Since then, a single tweet (#2024) from West’s now-deleted account has numerous news outlets convinced that 2024 will be the year that his complete lack of political experience will make its appearance on the world stage. Either way, there’s a lot to look forward to, not least the fact that West claims to have no political views: “When I talk about the idea of being president, I’m not saying I have any political views. I just have a view on humanity, on people, on the truth.” Okay then.
Don’t be a Kellyanne Conway – let the truth do the talking with a free online international journalism course from UTS Open.