We’re in the age of fake news. It’s not the first time; in the late 1800’s Yellow Journalism ruled the news. Wikipedia says Yellow Journalism presents little or no legitimate well-researched news. Instead, it used eye-catching headlines, exaggerations, scandal-mongering or sensationalism to grab readers. Sound familiar?
The term was coined during the famous newspaper wars in the 1890’s between William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer. Each paper tried to outdo the other with sensational, lurid stories. What we see today on the internet is pretty much the same thing, but with one big difference: Anyone can get into the game now, as publishing no longer requires cash for printing presses and the people to run them. Many online publications are just one person, sitting at a computer, hammering out stories for a low-dollar website with unconfirmed allegations or outright lies that suck people in. The more views a site gets, the more ads they sell.
For all the damage fake news sites do, there is another side to the coin. The rise of the internet has severely damaged the news institutions we used to rely upon for information. The morning newspaper is hanging on by its fingernails. Sometimes, the news is a propoganda machine that shows cat videos and the latest silly facebook posting, not in depth, real news. This has given rise to legit independent news sources – one person at a computer, pounding out carefully researched and vetted articles that change the world.
How do we tell the difference between legit and fake news?
First, look for independent verification. If it is true and a fact, someone else will be reporting the story. Google search and find out what others are saying. Don’t trust it if you can’t find verification.
Second, use your common sense. If someone is telling what to think instead of telling you facts, watch out! Listen for opinion words – words like clearly, obviously, I think, I believe, the best, Unfair, terrible, never, great, awful, inferior, superior. Words like these are feelings not facts. They are a strong indicator that someone is trying to convince you instead of providing information.
So keep a wary eye.