There is no doubt that President Donald Trump’s accusations of “fake news” has shaken the journalism community. Even here at Mills, the term “fake news” floats around, a continuing threat to our Thunderbolt’s valued journalistic integrity. The phenomenon is actually not new, however ridiculous news now spreads faster than neighborhood gossip with the help of social media and technology. Think you can rise above petty, inaccurate stories? Do you want to stay a step ahead? Here are a few steps for you to also avoid the clickbait of fake news.
- Check the source. Immediately, notice the domain and URL. .org websites are generally trusted, .com and .co less so. Trust reputable sources such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and NPR. Don’t want to take my word for it? Investigate the website including their mission statement and contact info. The mission and ethics statement should be straightforward, indicating an unbiased stance on news stories. A Google search of the source’s leadership and writers should provide further proof of a site’s validity.
- Beware of clickbait. Provocative headlines draw attention, so proceed with caution. Seemingly true yet outrageous headlines such as “Trojan Name New Ultra-Thin Skin Condom after Donald Trump”, may just be only outrageous. Read the entire article to be sure; many fake news sites use the tactic of an absolutely ridiculous title to capture readers, trusting they won’t actually read the entirety of the piece.
- Joke’s on you! Many a times, fake news is just satire. Satirical pieces usually have a warning, but not all readers understand the joke(s). Less experienced readers may not be familiar with popular websites such as The Onion or satirical columns in reputable news sources including the New Yorker. Actively look for signs or clues that a piece might be a piece of satirical humor.
- Real news can be backed by support and evidence. How many times were you told by teachers to provide support to your claims? This applies to news articles as well. Fake news will most often not provide support, much less credible support to their outlandish claims. Real news will have multiple sources quoted in the article itself. However, fake news may also allude to official-sounding sources, that upon a closer look are also false. Most government statistics and information are made public–you could check the facts yourself.
- When was the article written? Popular news articles circulating on social media websites are sometimes taken out of context. Given the constantly changing nature of the world, old news becomes irrelevant to the current situation.
- Remember, you are a human being with biases, check them. As much as we would like to stay objective, confirmation bias causes us to become drawn to news stories that reaffirm our beliefs about certain issues. Make sure your own beliefs about particular topics from healthcare to race issues don’t greatly affect how you interpret and judge a news story.
- Still unsure? Ask someone whose opinions you trust. English teacher, parent, librarian, your pet goldfish… okay maybe not your goldfish. But, do ask a trusted adult if you are still unsure. Websites such as factcheck.org, and snopes.com also provide trusted information.
And a request to you, dear reader; be a good friend and spread these ways to detect fake news. If you happen upon a poor soul who is convinced that the U.S. Senate is actually comprised of Russian spies, be a kind person and let them know, “THAT’s fake news!”