“Fake news!” We’re hearing about it all the time. Untrue and damaging stories which get shared quickly and widely on social media. In some cases “fake news” stories have led to tragic results. But, “fake news” is not a new phenomenon. It has been around since news became a concept five hundred years ago with the invention of print. Even America’s Founding Fathers were perpetrators of fake news for political means. Verified, “objective” news, didn’t emerge until about a hundred years ago.
Today, in the social media age, finding reliable news can be a confusing task. Sites like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat have created vast communication spaces for the sharing of information. This explosion of channels has increased the speed at which information travels, but it’s also helping to spread today’s epidemic of “fake news.”
Below are five ways to help navigate potential “fake news” from Dr. Melissa Zimdars, assistant professor of communication & media at Merrimack College:
1.) Consider the source: Strange domain names or websites that end in “lo” (“like Newslo”) are signs you should be wary.
2.) Check the URL: Fake news sites will often use a web address designed to make it look like a real site, ending in “.com.co”. For example, “abcnews.com” is a legitimate news source, but “abcnews.com.co” is not, despite its similar appearance.
3.) Look for visual clues: Fake news websites may use sloppy or unprofessional design and overuse ALL CAPS.
4.) Get a second opinion: If a story makes you very angry, dig deeper; consult other news sources; or use any of the following debunking sites: FactCheck.org, Politifact, Washington Post Fact Checker.
According to Forbes, the following 10 journalism brands are where you can find real facts rather than “alternative facts”: 1.) The New York Times, 2.) The Wall Street Journal, 3.) The Washington Post, 4.) BBC, 5.) The Economist, 6.) The New Yorker, 7.) Wire Services (The Associated Press, Reuters, Bloomberg News), 8.) Foreign Affairs, 9.) The Atlantic, 10.) Politico
These days, regardless of the sources, conducting your own fact-checks is critical. If you read a story which leaves you skeptical, consult the major players. See if any major outfits, such as The New York Times, The Washington Post or The Wall Street Journal are covering the issue. Also, look for primary sources. A lot of reporters will include links to the documents or memos they’re referencing. And finally, never stop probing. In a world overflowing with information, which can often be used against you, you owe it to yourself to stay keen, be savvy, and always question what you read.
Author: Mike Emerton, Founder, BridgeView Marketing