These days, we may hear a lot of fake news and information that’s spreading around like wildfire. It’s getting harder to differentiate what’s real and what’s not. In the past, news organizations have gone through a close examination of the news they have in order to determine its validity and veracity. An important part of a journalists’ reputation is how they can be trusted with the news they can offer. But things have changed.
You’re probably part of the problem
The gatekeeping role that the legacy media newspapers and network television news once had now falls to each one of us. Today, everyone assumes the position of the publisher. Technology made making news accessible to everyone either its fake or real news.
It doesn’t matter what journalists will publish since they don’t decide what goes public anymore. Unimpeded information flooded the internet filling a lot of websites, blogs, and tweets.
All of these news can also flow throughout social media and into our devices like laptops, tablets, and smartphones. For those who post, shares a news story on Facebook, or retweet a link on twitter takes on a role once held by only a few powerful media executives. The problem with these social media “publishers” these days is that they fail to take responsibility of what they have posted.
Fake news isn’t new. Thomas Jefferson said that “Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper.” Jefferson’s comment about fake news is his direct view of the news in the U.S and also in Europe. Fake news also happened in Italy back in 1475 when a priest made a false claim about a child’s disappearance. The political battle between Marc Anthony and Octavian to succeed the murdered Julius Cesar also used fake news. Where Octavian made use of fake news which enabled him to succeed in the case.
In today’s technological world, we’re caught in an informational storm. A perfect equation to be used is Velocity + Velocity = Volatility. With a variety of different news from the internet that we encounter each day, chances of unpredictable danger is possibly high.
People who use social media must check what they’re publishing. Some others repost or retweet information without even reading it carefully. This plays a big role for those who produce fake news. While some of these so-called publishers hope that they can deceive people, press critic Tom Rosenstiel said, “The goal of fake news is not to make people believe the lie. It is to make them doubt all news.”
Some of us may think that young people has better assessment when it comes to consuming information from social media.
But a study from Stanford University found it surprising that many of them can’t even evaluate the credibility of such information. About 80% of middle schoolers saw Facebook’s “sponsored content” as actual news. High School students didn’t verify photos. And most college students failed to see potential bias in an activist group’s tweet.
But it’s time to step up your game
So what can consumers do to be the new gatekeepers of news? To know what’s real and what’s not in a world full of fake news? Here are 3 steps to note.
1.Check the source
- This is the most basic thing to do when checking the legibility of an information. It’s easy to read headlines without even paying attention to who wrote it. Writes and websites operate with their own goal in mind, some wants to offer a balanced view, while others wants to deceive you.
- Check the “who” or the “what” of a source. Make sure you’re familiar with the website, Twitter handle, or the blog that you’ve been reading. You may want to read other articles that they have done and see if writers you trust links to them.
- Don’t forget to read the “About” section of the writer/website. You can use search engines to track the name. Websites like LinkedIn or Facebook have basic background information. The key is to know where they come from.
2.Check the information
- Check if other sources corroborate what you’re reading, viewing, and hearing. You can go to websites such as Snopes, Politifact, or FactCheck.org to verify if the site is trusted.
- For example, a report from Snopes have shown that some of Trump’s 2017 inauguration photos were taken weeks or years earlier. One of the photos was from Kansas Royals baseball team rally. In Politifact, it showed that Trump’s press secretary’s assertion the inauguration had the largest audience was disputed by other measurements. And in FactCheck.org, one of the information showed that former President Barack Obama “falsely claimed that a treaty he signed with Russia in 2011 ‘has substantially reduced our nuclear stockpiles, both Russia and the United States.’”
3.Be aware of your biases
- We tend to read, listen, and watch news with our own built-in prejudices. We see these information base on what we already believe. It’s easy to regard such information which can affect our worldview. Reports about confirmation bias arises. As some studies and writers have noted, we basically believe what we want to believe.
- A lot of journalists has provided guides on how to deal with biases and fake news. Some of these journalists includes Alicia Shepard, where she offers suggestions on how to avoid being duped. Alan Miller, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist grapples with confirmation bias head on. And Steve Inskeep at NPR provided a guide to facts.
- Win over your confirmation bias by broadening your knowledge and your skills of finding the right information. Don’t be one-sided and think about different points of view. Be a wide-reader and also read counterpoints. Check out new innovations from the media. One example is from a recent study that’s published on MarketWatch, where they placed different news sources depending on how legit it is. Another one from businessinsider.com where they can help you identify the ideology underlining your favorite source of news.