Week 11 Blog

Politifact: https://www.cnbc.com/2016/12/30/read-all-about-it-the-biggest-fake-news-stories-of-2016.html

Choose one of the top fake news stories of 2016 and write 200-300 words on how that story and other “fake news” works to discredit journalists and provide examples of some practical tools for fact-checking and social media verification.

REMEMBER: You must site at least ONE source in your main discussion post and you are REQUIRED to comment on at least ONE classmate!  These rules have not changed and in our last blog, many of you did not respond to a peer.  This time you will be marked off if you don’t complete at least ONE response.

Published by

mediaethicsuc2018

Adjunct Professor of Media Ethics in Contemporary Society at Utica College

3 thoughts on “Week 11 Blog”

  1. According to the list of fake news stories from CNBC.com, WTOE 5 News (an outlet that has since been shut down) circulated a story claiming that Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump for president. This news story and other “fake news” only serve to discredit real journalists and perpetuate feelings of distrust in the media. When people find out that stories they thought were true were not, it leads them to question how many other stories they read in a given week that may also be inaccurate and lack credibility. This uncertainty leads readers to lose their trust in all media, even those outlets that adhere to the highest standards of fact finding and reporting.

    Even with emerging issues of “fake news,” there are helpful tools and ways to fact-check and verify information. Websites such as factcheck.org and politifact.com are two helpful sites that fact-check stories and specific comments with regards to politics. Major news outlets, including NPR, The Washington Post and MSN.com, have also created their own fact-checking sites in addition to their news reporting. According to the NBC article that is linked below, a good indicator of whether or not news is credible is if a given story is being covered by other news outlets, particularly the major ones. Chances are, if the story is about a prominent figure or noteworthy event, such as the Pope endorsing Donald Trump, most if not all news outlets will have someone covering that story. I have found that this is not only a good way to confirm that stories are truthful, but it is also helpful in seeking out news objectivity. If you find that a number of news outlets have covered the same story, it is likely that each will contain some extent of media biased, but reading the same story from a few outlets can help you to separate objective news reporting from biased opinions.

    This article provides some other tips on how to identify and avoid “fake news”:

    https://www.nbcnews.com/better/news/can-you-spot-fake-news-your-feed-ncna854036

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  2. An article titled “ISIS leader calls for American Muslim voters to support Hillary Clinton” published on WNDR was engaged with on Facebook over half a million times. While the website describes itself as fake news, WNDR’s article is a great example of why satirical publications, whether they are legitimate or not, need to be careful with how and what they publish. One of the more popular satirical news sites out there is The Onion. While The Onion distributes unapologetically satirical content, lesser-known sites like WNDR are more susceptible to being interpreted as legitimate news. I do not think that sites like The Onion are intentionally trying to undermine journalism, but I think satirical news outlets need to be more mindful of how they distribute and market their content.

    Unfortunately, so many people struggle with media literacy, especially as it relates to politics. If you combine that with social media, then it is no surprise that a story like WNDR’s could be circulated online and perceived as true. We tend to seek out and insulate ourselves with the content that we want to see as users of social media. Therefore, it’s no surprise an article from a “self-confessed fake news outlet” went viral. Considering this, satirical news sites, no matter their intention, can just add more confusion for average, untrained consumers of media trying to identify what is and is not fake news. There does not seem to be any apparent way to educate the masses on fake news, especially when political figures are validating websites that distribute misinformation by portraying them as fact, so there should be some responsibility placed on the content creators themselves.

    Despite fake news sites having become more and more sophisticated with how content reads and looks, there is still some hope to determine the real from the fake. The AP and USA Today suggest looking at the URL of an unfamiliar website — if the address looks odd, like “com.co,” then chances are it probably is not legitimate (USA Today, 2017). Consumers should also ask themselves, “How does this article make me feel?” If the answer is “mad” or “angry,” then it could be fake news because false reporting is meant to illicit a strong emotional response like anger (USA Today, 2017).

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