There has been a lot of media coverage about “fake” news. Here are some considerations about this complex issue that you should keep in mind as you hear more. We need to be clear on what qualifies as “fake” news.
Examples of “fake” news:
- Outright lies
- Quoting others’ outright lies while knowing that they are lies
- Content which is designed to appeal to a demographic in a sensational manner without underlying proof of facts
- Presenting opinions as facts without identification as opinion or as editorial
Examples of things called “fake” news that are not “fake” news:
- Opinions that disagree with your own opinion
- Opinions that are identified as opinions but have no justification presented, or present justification that you feel is not persuasive
- Quoting other sources without knowing if the facts they present are true
“Fake” news is a toxic strategy that undermines faith in all news. Some sources that document this effect are listed below. “Fake” news is not the only major destructive factor in today’s media climate. Another is passing along stories that haven’t been fact checked. Earlier in America, passing along news that wasn’t checked was called gossip, and was discouraged. Corporations are not concerned with such matters. We as individuals should be. Don’t pass along anything that you haven’t checked.
The other factor is that news organizations are profit centers for the corporations that own them. They are in the same business as “The Real Housewives of Jersey Shore”. News organizations success is measured in clicks and in viewership. This need for success drives each media outlet to run the most sensational version of any story. It drives them to publish before anyone else, at the cost of investigation. In the stock market, two competitors are measured against each other to determine success. When one competitor produces less revenue than another, its stock will drop out of proportion to the revenue produced. This happens in news media as well. They are measured against each other in a zero sum game. They win, you lose. This sensationalist approach blurs the lines in reporting and makes the transition to “fake” news a seamless transition. This blurring of the lines results in loss of credibility. An important point to note is that all of these purveyors of content are driven by profit. “Fake” news and sensational news exist to compete for your attention, and its purveyors make money by inflaming your emotions. You are being manipulated for profit.
The way most political dialogue takes place on social media and casual conversation revolves around people quoting sources they trust, not about their having done significant reading and research. Considering the business of selling news, don’t disregard all media, just take all news with a grain of salt. In some cases, take it with a block of salt. I would recommend looking up your favorite sources on a site (links below) which rates them. The rating itself is open to verification. Get several ratings if possible. Here is one source for evaluating your “news” provider.
The sites named above continually change, as these purveyors of trash get identified, and re-surface with new names.
The first amendment protects lies and “fake” news as much as it protects good journalism. It is left to the consumer to determine the truth. We live in a country with a free market approach to truth. Buyer beware. In the mean time,
- search on “how to spot fake news”, and you’ll see many good videos
- be wary of any site that ends in a two letters, like abc.news.co: the last two letters are a country code, indicating Colombia
- copy and paste the headline and put it into your favorite search engine. If it pops up on all the “mainstream” sources, you’ll know it is real
A paper that is generally recognized as helpful in describing fake news was written by Melissa Zimdars, and can be found here. It has a handy list of current sites at the time of its publishing. A website for doing this as well is here.
Best of luck, remember, the situation we’re in is what happens when businesses without scruples get their way .