The Buzz word right now seems to be Fake News. You hear it everywhere, see classes scheduled to talk about, and maybe even plan to attend a workshop. The question remains what exactly is Fake News?
Fake News is just that, stories that are made up by people or organizations to drum up support, or tear down another person or organization. It is often used to generate clicks by advertisers, take a quick look at your Facebook feed. There are sure to be dozens of Fake News stories, they are really advertisements. How many of you have clicked through to read about that miracle weight loss plant?
There was a lot of discussion about Fake News during the Presidential Election campaign. Remember that story of a pizzeria shooting in North Carolina that was tied to Hillary Clinton’s child sex ring? Yeah I know that is clearly fake news, but the story took hold and at least one poll reportedly showed more than 10% of Trump supporters believed the story.
Facebook, Google and other social media sites are working on ways to filter and identify Fake News for the consumer. However, their efforts will not be perfect and as a journalist you need to be diligent.
Question everything, do not believe the photos you see on Facebook or Twitter that seem to be unreal, they could be. Find the source of information and verify before sharing it yourself.
Technology is great, but it has gotten so easy to mimic actual news sites that people who want to create Fake News and put it out there can do so with a few keystrokes. The problem Fake News tends to spread quickly, because it is often outrageous.
Fake News is often a misconception by a quick fingered Twitter comment. Look at the case study from the New York Times where a person in Austin, Texas connected a large group of buses to a group of protestors and connected the two. The intent was to inform, not deceive. The story was not true but was shared thousands of times, and many still believe it is accurate even after a correction.
As a journalist you have to be careful of 2 things. Do not get sucked into believing Fake News, and begin sharing it, and do not generate it by Tweeting observations as fact. It is better to be right that first.