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May 7, 2018

Who, what, when, where, why do hyperpartisan news sites exist?

Essential question: How does inflammatory news weaken a democratic society?

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Video summary

  • Part two the PBS NewsHour’s four-part series on “Junk News” explores who is behind creating inflammatory news sites and why.
  • Science correspondent Miles O’Brien profiles a leading purveyor of junk news, Cyrus Massoumi, who has hit the jackpot exploiting the trend toward hyperpartisan news.
  • Why does Massoumi do it? He makes a lot of money and it’s easy.

“[People] want like 250-word, like little hit them and go. It’s like — basically like a coke addict,” Massoumi explains. “Every hour, he just needs to get that little dopamine rush. Like, a fan on the conservative side or the liberal side needs to take out their phone, look at it, oh, Trump sucks. Trump sucks, so bad. All right, all right, I’m done, I’m done, and then, right?”

Leading to the question, who has the responsibility to address the dangers of junk news? The people who make the news or the people who consume it?


Discussion questions:

  1. Essential question: How does inflammatory news weaken a democratic society?
  2. What does it mean to be partisan? What does it mean to be hyperpartisan?
  3. What is the difference between junk news as described in this series and so-called fake news?
  4. What do you think Miles O’Brien meant when he asked Cyrus Massoumi if creating clickbait is ‘unpatriotic’?
  5. Do you think Massoumi should take more responsibility for his actions?
  6. Would you take a job spinning facts or creating inflammatory news if it paid a lot of money? Why or why not?
  7. How should the government respond to inflammatory news sites?

Extension activity:

Check out this lesson on misinformation based on the information of PBS’ youth reporters. Click here for the full-site.


Visit PBS NewsHour Extra for more education resources designed to help teachers and students identify the who, what, where and why-it-matters of the major national and international news stories@NewsHourExtra

PBS NewsHour Classroom helps teachers and students identify the who, what, where and why-it-matters of the major national and international news stories.

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