As a student journalist, coming across stories about fake news is gut-wrenching. How could someone spread lies that could completely jeopardize others’ livelihood? It frustrates me that people can be so individualistic as to care more about personal gain than an allegiance to truth and integrity.
The current hot topic fake news scandal concerns Paul Horner, a news fabricator who claims to have altered the course of the 2016 Presidential election. Horner spread his illegitimate news stories on websites that mimicked real news sites. For example, “The Amish in America Commit their Vote to Donald Trump: Mathematically Guaranteeing Him a Presidential Victory” was posted on a website that looked like ABC News. Then, stories were vomited onto social media sites.
Dissemination of news on social media has changed the course of journalism. Now, anyone can write a news-related post and be a citizen journalist.
But, honestly, “there is nothing new under the sun” when it comes to peoples’ motives.
Fake news is not new.
Even some of our often glamorized Founding Fathers were participant perpetrators. For example, in 1782, Benjamin Franklin created a fake newspaper with fabricated articles. The articles discussed cruel acts towards Native Americans and others at the hand of the British government. These fabricated articles were for political gain, and Franklin’s intent was for them to spread to publication in other newspapers.
According to the Journal of the American Revolution, “The repulsive and gruesome hoax perpetrated by Franklin was propaganda skillfully designed and executed to demonize the former British ministry in the eyes of the British public. The current ministry would find it hard, facing such images, not to give in to American claims at the peace negotiations.”
Then, there are professionals who fabricated dozens of stories before their lies were discovered.
So, if we will always run the risk of coming in contact with fake news, what should we do?
Check your facts – especially if you’re going to share something on social media – and don’t be discouraged.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Horner was asked why the fake news scene was different now than three or five years ago.
“Honestly, people are definitely dumber,” Horner said. “They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks anything anymore.”
Let’s disprove Horner’s statements. Before you believe something or share it, make sure that it comes from a legitimate news site, read the entire article with an eye for inconsistencies and maybe even research the author or read a few more articles on the same subject.
Please don’t add to the problem. Strive to be media literate and do your research before you click “share.”
Also, don’t make the mistake of not reading the news because you’re scared that it could be fake. I’ve heard that logic several times in the last few months.
Just because citizen journalists and journalists fabricate stories doesn’t mean that every article is false.
Fake news isn’t new, and not all articles are lies. But, before you take my word for it, check my facts.