Fake news versus credible news

Dale Quaid/The Arka Tech

In the journalism world, there is hard news, which are fact-based, “hard-hitting journalism” type stories, and soft news, which are stories that are more focused on the human element. However, recently journalists have had to deal with a completely different type of news—fake news.

Fake news has been around for years. The most prominent example of fake news is the supermarket tabloid “National Enquirer,” which seems to meld somewhat true, fake and, on extremely rare occasions, true news. However, with the fairly recent creation of social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook, fake news has become a much more pressing problem for journalists and for the news reading public.

So what is fake news exactly? Fake news is, simply put, news that is untrue. News that is manufactured in this manner appears to prey on readers who just simply read a headline or a couple of sentences and take the story to be fact without any independent research. Primarily, fake news is written by people who are not professional journalists. They could be people who are looking to make money, or people who are just trying to play a prank.

People who write fake news are usually pretty good about making it look at least semi-credible, and since social media is the preferred platform, actual news sources aren’t able to debunk all the myths. Which leaves some responsibility in your hands. Credible news sources are out there. You just have to find them, which requires a little research on your part. A little research into the background of a website or newspaper can usually tell you whether or not the source is credible and what kinds of stories it tends to publish. Without readers doing some independent research, fake news may become the only news.

Fake news is extremely prevalent on social media: “Iceland will pay you 2,500 euros a month to marry an Icelander!” or “*Enter big name celebrity here* uses this ONE trick to stay thin.” Both of these are “news” headlines that have been circulating on Facebook.

However, sometimes fake news can be more sinister than click-bait, and it can have damaging consequences. In December of 2016, a man armed with an AR-15 drove to Comet Pizza in Washington, D.C. in order to rescue children who were held in the Clinton-Podesta sex ring. Imagine his surprise when he found out that the story he read on social media wasn’t true.

The 2016 presidential race was nearly overrun with fake news stories of this sort. Most of them born online. One of the most overriding fake news stories was the story that many, if not all, of the protestors at Trump rallies were paid. “Paul Horner runs a string of websites, some looking deceptively like mainstream news organizations. He created a post that said protesters at Trump rallies were paid $3,500 to disrupt the rally as a dirty tricks plot. He told the Washington Post he knew it wasn’t true but wrote it as a parody that could make him money if people actually believed it,” according to an article on politicalfact.com.

So not only is social media to blame, people are actually writing fake news stories in order to make money. And politicians and other well-educated people are parroting these stories and flaunting them as truth. President Donald Trump himself repeated the fake news story about paid protestors; Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, repeated the fake news story about Florida’s senators voting to impose Sharia law; and many people have repeated the fake news story that Pope Francis himself endorsed Trump. The list goes on.

But again. Fake news isn’t the only news in town just yet. Professional journalists have striven for years to make sure the truth, and nothing but the truth, reaches the people. Though we are not yet professional journalists, we at the Arka Tech also strive to bring you news that is the truth. We thoroughly research when we do stories, and we always try to make sure our quotes are attributed correctly and fall in line with our ethical code. And if we do make a mistake, we correct ourselves. Because we believe in the integrity of journalism and news, we want to encourage each and every one of you to do more research when it comes to your news.

If you’re scrolling Facebook and see a headline about the Obamas buying a mansion in Dubai, click on it. Go to the website. Go to the websites about page. If they just have an email address with no information about staff or a physical location of some sort, they are not real news agencies and should not be trusted. There are several news stories on Facebook and Twitter from WTOE 5 News. This “news agency’s” about page says it is “a fantasy news website.” Not all fake news sites will be this upfront, but if it looks shady, it probably is.

Credible news sources will generally have about pages detailing what the publication is, who the staffers are, if there are any jobs available and a way to contact the source that is more than a gmail or Yahoo account.

There are some news sources, such as The New York Times and The Washington Post, that are widely considered to be reputable sources. But there are thousands more credible sources out there. It just takes a quick glance through a website to find them. We implore you to explore websites before you hit share. We don’t want fake news to become the only news people have to read, and we don’t want professional journalists’ reputations ruined because of fake news. If we all do just a little research, we could help eradicate this fake news world.