Don’t Get Sucked in by Fake News
How can I be sure the information I read online is real?
If you think about it, fake news is a lot like gossip: it’s based on opinions rather than facts; it’s emotionally charged; and just like gossip, fake news can do serious harm.
“We don’t want to get history mixed up for future generations,” says Pilar Aciego, 17, a freshman at Florida International University who is interested in studying journalism. “Everything we put online or in the news will end up in our future history books.”
In the past, people relied on what we call “legacy media,” according to Steve Orlando, who teaches at the University of Florida’s College of Journalism & Communications.
Legacy media such as radio, television and especially newspapers have existed since before the advent of the internet. The New York Times and Washington Post were both founded in the 1800s. CNN was started in 1980. “These are news sources that hire accredited and unbiased journalists to write stories based on interviews, research and reporting,” Orlando says.
“Today, many of us get our news from social media,” says Orlando. “This isn’t exactly bad. If a friend shares a post from tampabaytimes.com or CNN.com, that’s information from an accredited news source. But if someone’s sharing ‘news’ from, I’m just making something up here, RadicalKittenLovers.com, odds are this isn’t information you can trust.
How to tell the difference between real and fake news.
Check out the site’s About page.
If the site is legit, the About page will tell you which news agencies it’s associated with and how its reporters obtain information. Research the names of the writers and producers who work for the site. Are these people even real? And if so, do they have real world experience as reporters? Or is their Twitter feed just a bunch of political rants?
Look at the story itself.
Real news relies on interviews and research from sources like government agencies, research studies put out by accredited colleges and universities, and even reference sites like britannica.com. “Most real news sites won’t list a fact unless it can be accredited to a specific source. If facts are unattributed, or listed as coming from anonymous sources, be wary,” says Orlando, a journalism professor at the University of Florida.
Scan the story for typos.
Most “real” publications have editing teams to ensure there are no misspellings or slipups. “Real journalists know how to use punctuation,” says Gabbi Johnson, a freshman at Broward College.