As an aspiring broadcast journalist, I am saddended by the downturn journalism has recently taken in the wake of a social media ridden universe. It saddens me to see that once reputable sources and writers are being outcompeted by “clickbait” language and false information. Especially in light of recent events, namely the 2016 election, journalism has become a focal point on social media, especially on Facebook. People are unfortunately relying on any article they find to educate themselves about world and national relations; however, this method could not be more dangerous.
My little sister, a 15-year-old in high school, recently texted me an article with the headline “Bernie Sanders Could Replace President Trump With Little-Known Loophole.” She knows how involved I am in politics and thought that this new information would make me more hopeful about Trump’s victory. I appreciated her effort, but after taking the time to read the article I realized that it was actually all a scheme to see how many people would fall prey to the clickbait; the body of the article was actually teaching people to remain cautious and to not trust everything they read at first glance. The part that upsets me the most, though, is that this article was shared by thousands of people, adults and millennials alike, all falling prey to the black hole of misinformation on social media. Also, numerous articles addressing the hate crimes on minority groups have been reblogged, retweeted, and shared all over Facebook. Although this is an important issue that demands national coverage, what people are failing to realize is that some of these articles are dated all the way back to way before Trump even announced his plans on running for President. Now, I am not saying that Trump supporters have not committed violent hate crimes targeted towards minority groups. I am simply trying to make a point that the next time you read an article stay on guard. So, to hopefully foster a sense of trust in our nation’s media, here are some tips to keep you from falling prey to faulty sources:
1. Check the date
Checking the date is super important because the last thing you want to do is read a “current events” article only to find out it was written years ago. I too have been guilty of reading through an article and being swayed by the writer’s points, only realizing that it was written in 2014 by the time I got done reading it. The most disturbing part of it all is that the article somehow didn’t surface until the points addressed were actually relevant. For example, I was reading an article post-election results elaborating on Trump’s proposed policies, one of them dealing with the issue of maternity leave. I guess the point of the newfound popularity of the article was to humanize Trump and make him seem more sincere and genuine. However, when I checked the date, I realized it was written last year (only adding to Trump’s list of proposed, yet never fulfilled plans)!
2. Fact check
Most consumers in today’s media-ridden society are very trusting, believing nearly anything they read to be factual without substantial proof. I think that today’s society puts so much of their trust into our media outlets that they don’t ever think to second-guess a journalist’s point of view. While it is a good thing that journalists have so much influence in society, it is also a curse when individual journalists are irresponsible with their level of power. For example, going back to Trump’s maternity leave article, if one took the time to research the article a bit more thoroughly then they would have realized that Trump’s proposal to extend a woman’s maternity leave to 6 weeks was actually a lot more complicated. In reality, Trump’s plans only pertained to the actual women who give birth to the child, which excludes same-sex couples who adopt children, husbands aiding their wives at home, and couples that use surrogate mothers. While most sources are reliable, like The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and other reputable outlets, always remain on guard and don’t automatically believe everything you read.
3. Is it from a reputable source?
Elaborating on my previous point about reputable sources, with today’s accessibility to social media basically anyone can publish a news story. Whether that be through a personal blog, a small-scale independently run newspaper, or a caption on an Instagram post, you could potentially be reading something written by a 13-year-old from Michigan. So, make sure that the information that you collect is reliable and coming from a newspaper with a strong reputation that you can trust. However, having said that, even articles published through reputable outlets can be biased which is why you should always fact-check and not believe everything that you read.
4. Is the writer biased?
Living in a democracy with a two-party system, it is easy to be swayed to support one side religiously. This division between society can bring out people’s true colors and can easily influence susceptible minds. Additionally, many politicians pay media outlets to publish articles basically as a form of self-advertisement. I think that this is where the controversy of the recent election comes from: so many people are spewing out allegations that America is putting its politics into the hands of “uneducated” minds. I think this idea comes from journalists being one-sided and influencing impressionable minds to educate themselves through their biased articles, but I digress. I simply want to urge all readers to remain cautious of everything that they read on the internet. While I always advocate for people to remain open-minded, also stay true to what you believe in and don’t make it so easy for opposing forces to change your views.
As consumers of the media, we are first to fall prey to the misconceptions imposed on all of us by globally run corporations like different news stations and other media outlets. However, I hope that this article can inspire all of you to keep your guard up when reading things on the internet because, in this social media driven world, you really have no idea where you are getting your information and facts from, and you must be aware that not everything or everyone is on your side. If we can learn anything from this recent election, Americans crave entertainment. Whether that entertainment comes from reality tv to presidential debates, media outlets feed off of this and make a profit every time one of us gives in to it’s ludicrousness. So, the next time you read an article from the internet ask yourself: can I trust this? The judgement is left up to you; what choice will you make?
If you would like to write for Her Campus Mount Holyoke, or if you have any questions or comments for us, please email [email protected].