How We Should Battle "Fake News"
In today's society, when I tell people I am in school to become a journalist, I get a handful of the same responses. Among them, I'm often met with a grimace and something along the lines of "Fox or NBC?"
The concept of "fake news" has become more popular and ridiculed over the past few years, and makes the science behind journalism... laughable. If humans do not share a credible source, what makes us any different than the animals? In other words, why should I believe anything you wrote, when this other source said the exact opposite?
I typically don't have words when it's brought up. My mind shuts down and I become a blank, stammering mess. There's so much I want to say: Not every news source is completely biased. Many publications spend days fact-checking. Facebook isn't a valid news source most of the time. But in a way, the general public has the right to be upset. There are publications that blatantly lie. There are others that skew so far from the truth that it's hard to tell fact from fiction.
The last thing that people want to hear is that they should look up different news sources; far right, far left, and in between. But the inconvenience behind that is baffling and tends to shy the average Joe and Jane away from being intellectual consumers of the news. Instead, they pick an article that favors them from their Facebook wall, share them with a caption based on the lede from the article, and watch the fights unfold in the comments.
Whereas, additional research and reading would allow for the expansion of knowledge for said Joe and Jane. But as I said, we cannot blame them. Social media has conditioned humans to gravitate towards whatever is quickest. And shouldn't even the quickest of searches lead to a semi-credible and semi-unbiased article?
Unfortunately, it is not.
It may be a hassle to dig through all of the millions of articles on the subject of whatever, but if that's the mindset that the public has, it's no wonder that fake news has become the way of the news spectrum.
I recently found myself in the middle of an argument over Christmas (it was my own fault for jokingly saying, "If the draft becomes a thing, I'm taking Matt and moving to Canada."), where one side had said, "I get my news from Facebook, and here are these statistics I found on President Trump."
Have you ever heard of the term "filter bubble"? Maybe not, but if you've been paying attention to your social media accounts, you've probably noticed it subconsciously.
Let me compare it to something you've definitely heard of and experienced: Algorithms. Every social media outlet uses them, and even those larger internet corporations like Google uses them, too. Instagram filters through your likes and will slowly begin to filter out content it thinks wouldn't be interesting to you. This means that if you follow 1,000 people, but you're constantly seeing the same 100, you've fallen to the app.
Facebook does it too, but through online links. If you're scrolling through your newsfeed and you have a conservative friend right above a liberal friend, who both have shared links comparing Donald Trump, which one are you more likely to click on? The friend that shares your political party viewpoints.
But now, you've noticed that Facebook is limiting your visible links. If you're far right, you'll begin to see only far-right articles. And if you're far left, it's the same deal.
Google does the same thing.
The point is, the arguing party very well could have found viable information on Facebook. Like it or not, it definitely is a source where hundreds of thousands of people scope out the news, but by this system, you are receiving fake news. And one of the ways to combat it? Do your research.
If an article or a video is leaning extremely far towards one opinion, I challenge you to do some digging and find something that leans in the opposite direction. Then, find a few in the middle. Make your connections, take some notes.
"Fake news" may very well be a real thing, but not all journalists are corrupt. It's both the job of the journalist and the reader to stamp out fake news by becoming smart and avid consumers of the news.
That is how you beat fake news.
P.S. Please enjoy this picture of me getting mic'ed up before anchoring. If you knew how much fact-checking went into an episode of WVU News, you would realize that most of us journalists really do want to provide the facts.