As internet information consumers, each one us is likely to have an accuracy barometer. An internal measure of how likely we believe a news story to be unbiased, free from factual errors, and without agenda.
In the age internet media, where everyone is an iphone journalist, it can be tough to differentiate the truth from fiction and even harder for those stories that blur the lines.
According to the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, survey respondents said they more often discovered what they call “poor journalism” than fake news, consisting of clear biases, factual mistakes, and the ever so prominent “Click bait” (Hate click bait?? Try this one weird trick here!)
But, even still, there is one factor that differentiates fake news from shoddy journalism –
The difference is clear, someone who is guilty of poor journalism is likely a victim of the 24 hour news cycle requiring us to create content round the clock for a starved consumer market – when we ask for that kind of turn around, the rate of quality work is bound to fall.
Typos, unclear statements, misquotes, and the like are all common mistakes made through poor journalism. The intent is to get the story right, the end result however – isn’t.
Journalism, like any other occupation, has it’s career professionals, whose work is Pulitzer worthy and whose integrity unmatched. Then there are the others who just skate by – that’s life and hardly a high crime, but with such sensitive work, the careful handling of information has never been more vital.
Fake news on the other hand is full of bad intentions and is much harder to snuff. It wants to mislead you, make you angry, or to tell you which cast member of the show “Friends” just died and you won’t believe how! (They’re doing fine.)
You’d be surprised how many people fall for fake stories, chiefly because they are more sophisticated than ever.
How we can fix it.
We are in luck! Since, the advent of the fake news phenomenon, many online news organizations and social media giants including Facebook and Twitter have created strategies for battling false information.
Tackling fake news starts with the cultivators of the fakery. Whether you think its Russians, the Chinese, or some 400lb guy living in his moms basement – fake news markets are saturated with likely actors.
Although, we are counting on the facilitators of false information to do the leg work necessary to prevent the spread of fake news, we may never hold all fake news creators accountable.
With that said, there are a few simple steps you can take to ensure that they get fewer clicks and you get better news.
1) Be a skeptic
We must first begin by improving our own skills of identifying false information. The term “fake news” may be new, but it’s existence is far from it. News organizations and lone wolf writers have forever created content claiming to be honest. The Smithsonian even has an article documenting its history!
Decipher information by first being a skeptic. Ask yourself “what’s the angle here?” Sometimes there isn’t one – but always be on high alert.
2) Look for inconsistencies
In fake news, you will likely find weird web-page layouts, lots of ads, or typos. Although not any one of these factors may let you know what is fake and what is not, they each help us judge the quality of journalism we are consuming.
3) Beware of HYPERBOLE
Exaggerated statements like “This one WEIRD trick will make your accountant worthless.” or pictures that look edited or oddly placed like this one –
are clear indicators that something isn’t right.
4) Dig deeper
Oftentimes if a story seems too good (or bad) to be true, it often is. Look for other corroborating stories from more reputable news sources like AP news or Reuters. Chances are, if these sites are saying the same things, you’re in the know!
Now that we know not all news is created equal, we can finally feel confident in our next Facebook binge or Internet rabbit hole. Below is a list of news sites that I trust as my go to sources for clear, unbiased information.
Please, surf responsibly.
Rosemary Ketchum is a contributing writer and the founder of the Ketchum Community. An online global community resource aimed at engaging communities and empowering individuals to tell their community stories.