I’m going to rant a little bit today. I find myself arguing with otherwise reasonable people over fake news. It’s an issue. So much so, I have to talk about it here and probably more than once.
The onslaught of fake news and websites dedicated to producing click bait grows by the day. My news feed is consumed by hyperbolic headlines that are complete bullshit. We have reached a pinnacle of, ‘feelings as facts’ reporting. It is more important for publications to get clicks than to do their due diligence. For most people this seems ok, as long as the content reinforces their own ideology. Those people can fuck off.
In fact, post-truth became the Oxford Dictionary international word of the year in 2016. Defined as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”
In the information age, objective facts have become less influential than emotional and personal belief. This is ridiculous, reckless behavior. Please know, I do indeed judge you harshly if you are the type of person to put your personal feelings in place of factual information.
Journalistic integrity is dead and that feels tragic to me. The press is supposed to exist as a checks and balance to those in power.
They gave the First Amendment as a way of giving a fourth branch of government — in fact, the press — an ability to question those in power in any of those three branches of government. -Ken Auletta, Writer, The New Yorker
The irony of it all is, we have the power to debunk, dismiss, and denounce this practice, by using the power of the internet to research any given topic, at any given time. What is the point of having access to all of the information in a device that can fit in your pocket if you are going to exist with your head in the sand, gravitating only to content that soothes you and affirms your personal dogma?
Dear friends – get your heads out of your asses and start digging in deep…our very lives depend on it. I am here to help you, help us end the business of bullshit news and teach you how to spot a fake.
#1 – Trustworthy writers credit their sources
Any writer of worth knows they are nothing without their sources and reference materials. I have seen writers of all visibility use the words of others as their own, claiming content mysteriously appeared to them without citing even an anonymous source. A good story has a lot of breadcrumbs that the reader can follow. If an article or news source is stingy with sources, chances are it’s fake or plagiarized. Please understand fake news and bullshit writers can exist within real news publishers.
#2 – Reliable reporting is balanced
Above all else, news is meant to inform, not delight us. There is no rule that it cannot do both but it must do the first thing…inform. If it is not an op-ed there should be no slant to the reporting. Balanced news does not take sides, it reports the facts and tells the story without any bias. If you are reading something and it is heavy on the hyperbole or it doesn’t present all sides, chances are it’s fake or propagandist news.
#3 – Authentic publications have a track record
Fake news often comes from publications more interested in getting you in front of their advertisers. This is how they make money. Pay attention to the website you’ve landed on. If it is full of advertisements and pop ups, chances are its existence is to get you in front of sponsored ads and not to report the news. Pay attention to how long the site has been in existence. Check their archives and research their body of work. If there is little substance, it’s a good sign it isn’t a reliable source.
#4 – Poor editing is a huge giveaway
As stated above, fake news exists as a way to bait you over to the site so they can sell you things. They don’t much care about the quality of the content. There is no editor working tirelessly to ensure the story is accurate, never mind proof reading. They only want your eyes on their advertisements because this is how they are profiting off serving you fake news. If the content is full of bad spelling and even worse grammar, it’s fake.
#5 – Misinformation and skewed facts
In a lot of cases the news has becomes a propaganda machine. Post-truth, feelings have replaced facts. Many fake news sites intend to misinform and change the narrative to fit their ideology. Check your facts, if a reporter cites a statistic, look it up. If you come across enough conflicting information, chances are your news source has an agenda other than giving you accurate information.
Keep in mind that technology to manipulate photos and videos exist. In this day and age, a good rule of thumb is, “question everything and do your homework.” In this way you can be your own reporter and get to the bottom of any subject on your own.
Too many times we are so quick to hit that share button in order to get some type of information out. Do a little homework before hand.Sharing a fake story can often have the opposite effect of raising awareness and instead cause more confusion.
Here is a comprehensive list to help you weed out the less obvious offenders.