Fake News, Real Problem

On Thursday night, I attended an event about the trending “Fake News”. A journalist, Matthew Hall, from The San Diego Union-Tribune was the host for this talk. He talked about how people have much less faith in the media today, how journalists are in especially compromising position and how the technological age has really impacted both issues.  

Using the term “Fake News” is not a new thing. It didn’t come from Donald Trump, it is a phrase that has been in the media world for a long time. This isn’t saying that the media shares fake news, because that is far from the truth. There are reputable websites, apps and channels to get your information, but others are not as honest as they seem. Professional companies like the San Diego Union-Tribune are held to a high standard of transparency for their paper. Other places like personal websites, blogs and social media accounts are not held to that same standard. While we hope they don’t intentionally give us bad information, they aren’t required to do as much research, be bias-free, or public-oriented.  

Journalists today are expected to be honest, transparent and fair. They are expected to write things with fair representation, free of hate, and strive for diversity and inclusion. Even if they do have a bias, they understand the importance of being aware of that bias and keep it out of their writing.

Hall’s definition of real news is, “An honest account of actual events, true facts, and real people. Usually includes the perspectives of a diverse range of stakeholders and observers and acknowledges that different people can interpret the truth in different ways.”  

This is what the reputable sources are writing about, this is the news and information we should be looking for.  

On the other hand, fake news is, “False or inaccurate information spread by accident or decision. It can include misinformation and disinformation, such as propaganda, hoaxes and conspiracy theories.”  

Not all inaccurate information was shared for the purpose of providing fake news. Sometimes news outlets, social media and others are simply misinformed. Yet, many of the times we see things like propaganda intentionally directed at someone to make them less credible.

Not too long ago there was a big propaganda scandal coming from Russia directed at Barack Obama when he was the president. It included Russian government officials slamming Obama via Twitter, increased media coverage over his unfavorable policies and even bumper stickers. It is always good to be careful and fact-check what you read, you never know what sources aren’t being 100% transparent.

Now, we can talk about news in today’s technological age. As I already mentioned, there are increased opportunities to get news because things like the internet exist, which can mean increased outlets of misleading information. Additionally, quick social platforms make it easier to harm a journalist. Direct messages (DM’s) are a common way for people to share their disagreement with paper's articles. Hall even showed us a full message box after his paper published a writing piece on dogs, most readers didn’t agree that dogs “aren’t a man’s best friend”.

That is a negative of quick technology, but it has also been a great resource to journalists. Hall says he is on Twitter all the time to respond to his followers, since responding to the audience is a crucial piece of his job. He stressed to us that even though a lot of people will say negative things, we need to maintain professionalism when responding through social media.  

Matthew Hall did a great job explaining that fake news is not the media’s intent. Many sources are reputable in giving real news, you just have to double check to make sure you are getting your information from the correct sources.  He also stressed the importance of being transparent as a journalist. Having good intent on social media is just as important as being clear in writing articles. My (hopefully) clear intent for this article was to share what I learned in hopes to increase your understanding of fake vs real news. That said, continue you on to find your favorite and reputable media outlets!