What's real anymore? How to spot "Fake News"
The term "Fake News" originated from politicians to discredit media sources from being reliable, usually due to the fact that they published unfavorable stories. Then cue Russian cyber trolls, who capitalize on social media platforms to influence Western democratic functions. Fake News is now being tossed around in mainstream media and society more and more everyday, each use accompanied with its own agenda. What are we to make of this?
While the origins may be political in nature, Fake News is fundamentally changing the way we look at the news. And its not all bad. Healthy skepticism is great for news and journalism in general. It helps to keep journalists accountable, making sure they respect journalistic ethics on the pursuit of truth. Journalists are often referred to as watchdogs of democracy, but who watches over the watchdogs?
As cliché as it might sound, truth is what journalists strive for; however, we soon realize that truth is never manifests itself in one form. Depending on the issue, truth can wear so many different faces. Which face is the best?
On the other hand, one thing journalists are told to avoid is bias. Bias degrades creditability and creditability is what makes your audience read your content. Or that is what used to. Now instead of valuing truth, the polarization of politics and proliferation of social media have people tucked away in their internet bubbles with fringe media outlets producing content that reinforces existing positions. This in turn works to push opposing sides further apart and undermines the chance of negotiation and mutual understanding.
This seemingly never-ending vicious cycle fueled by confirmation bias seems grim for the future. Yet there are steps every active, engaged consumer of media (aka YOU) can take to wade through trash to get to the worthwhile.
Vince Filak a journalism professor of mine created this to help in the identification of Fake News. I just wanted to highlight a few points.
1. Sponsored Content: Content that is paid for always has an agenda. That is kind of the point of advertising. It may or may not impact the credibility of whatever is being written about, but it should always be taken into account.
2. Consider the Source: Is the root source of the information not linked nor discussed? RED FLAG. Does the linked root source look sketchy or fake? RED FLAG. Be sure to identify what kind of article it is. For example, is it a news article, opinion piece, blog post (hi, that's me) or your weird uncle's Facebook wall?
3. Be Wary of Bloggers: Yes, I'm serious. Take everything I say with a grain of salt. Analyze it. Evaluate it. This goes for all bloggers, because unlike traditional media outlets, we are the reporter, producer and editor all-in-one and have way more freedom and flexibility with what we publish.
And after all that, you aren't sure what you're reading is fair or accurate, DON'T SHARE IT, even if you agree wholeheartedly with every single word written. Because when you do, you exacerbate the problem of Fake News. Critical analysis can stop Fake News before it even starts.