Access to the latest news stories is now just a scroll away, yet there is one recurring theme among social media and hard reporting: fake news. Not only is it important to be able to notice what is real and what is fake, but also understand how and why it has become so common.
What is fake news?
Fake news is described as any type of news that is deliberately distorted or skewed to look real, also known as yellow journalism. Usually these stories are created to influence readers to feel a certain way, push a political view or create confusion. It is now seen as one of the greatest threats to democracy and free speech.
Although “fake news” became widely popular in 2017, it is not new. The internet has made it easy to publish any type of media with limited regulations on the content. Social media also makes it difficult to distinguish between truth and falsity because of its reach. Some social media websites, like Facebook, have even put policies into play to protect users from fraud articles spreading further.
How does it affect people?
According to Cision’s Sixth Annual Social Journalism Study, 51% of press professionals say that fake news is an increasing issue in their areas. A majority of the participants in this study also feel that social media encourages journalists to focus more on speed rather than analysis.
Traditional journalistic values are often seen as “lost” among social media since the content is much less filtered with looser guidelines. In comparison to hard reporting a few decades ago, there were strict codes of practice to follow before something could be published.
Recognizing fake news
The hardest part about fake news is recognizing that it’s incorrect. Often times people understand what types of news are acceptable, however, even journalists have difficulty identifying the difference.
Most people focus too much on the source itself when they should also be focusing on the context when deciding whether the source is valid or not. As well as checking the source and context, make sure to see if other news outlets are also reporting on this story. Double-checking to see that dates and timelines are matching is also a good indicator of whether the article is real.
Blog Post by Madison Foulkes
Cision Global. (Sept. 16, 2017). Jay Baer Asks: Is Fake News Really a Thing? Chicago, IL. Cision. URL:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WuvzDFMYH8c
Webwise.ie. (June 21, 2018). Explained: What is Fake News? New York, NY. Webwise.ie. URL: https://www.webwise.ie/teachers/what-is-fake-news/
Pariser, E. (July 18, 2019). Where the evidence of fake news is really hiding. Big Think. URL: https://bigthink.com/Charles-Koch-Foundation/identify-fake-news