I don’t think anyone has heard the term “fake news” thrown around more than during the 2016 Presidential election. And frankly, I think the closest any of us have come to fake news prior to the 2016 U.S. presidential election was when our octogenarian relatives posted statuses that Facebook was going to start charging money to use the social network, which was of course a hoax. And who could forget all those “Jackie Chan is dead” rumors that floated around the internet. Poor Jackie Chan.
But the issue of misreporting information or “fake news” has had some history, going as far back as 1799 in the case of U.S. v. Fries, dealing with the issue of the press publishing falsehoods to a large mass of readers. And over time in the legal landscape, there have been tens of hundreds of defamation cases against members of the press corps in which the key issue was whether the press reported a specific story with malice, and without verifying the story’s legitimacy in such a way that it tarnished one’s reputation.
And of course, I think Katie Couric said it best in a video essay in 2010 when she talked about the proliferation of false reporting on the Internet. What Katie Couric speaks of is exactly what fake news is.
Fast forward to this past election cycle
President Trump has thrown out the term “fake news” and “VERY fake news” to address stories that he didn’t like about his personal life, his business practices, and all things relating to his campaign. His lashing out at the news media has carried over into his Presidency with stories about his campaign’s ties to Russian oligarchs, the Kremlin, and Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 Presidential election.
The funny thing is that much of the information the media has reported has been confirmed by multiple media organizations, so really, the news can’t be that fake. Yet, the proliferation of non-reputable, virtually unknown political blogs and websites has truly led the “fake news” frontier and created a rift in the media landscape unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.
So, reports of a “rigged election” as suggested by no-name blogs and by our own President have been all but confirmed by every major news outlet, newspaper, print publisher and news media agency in America
I have worked for two news organizations in my lifetime: CBS News and ABC News. I can assure readers that any information that is reported on major news outlets such as the two aforementioned ones will share genuine, legitimate, accurate, and credible information to the general public.
Now, the manner in which the information is reported is a whole different ball game; that speaks to the semantics of news reporting. But as for the substance of the report, I can confidently say that news agencies that have had a history of reporting credible information since the dawn of news television are still in the business of accurate reporting.
And sadly, news reporters today are being victimized and are leading the fight against uncorroborated false reporting that constantly floats around.
As millennials, I think we play as much of a role as mass media in the fight against “fake news.” I think our contribution will make all the difference in supporting free press and preventing the epidemic of uncorroborated reporting that has, unfortunately, made a place for itself in today’s society.
When people see a story online, they are quick to believe it’s true. Millennials are just as guilty of this. After all, we grew up in a time when the internet became the cornerstone of how we consumed content. A general rule of thumb: don’t believe everything you see on the internet, especially if it seems too good to be true. It doesn’t hurt checking a second, third, or even fourth source to verify the legitimacy of a story. So, the next time you see a “Jackie Chan is dead” story floating online, check out AP, Reuters and other newswires to verify the story’s truthfulness.
A great way to stay informed is to subscribe to newsletters for news websites, especially ones that tend to keep news reporting as neutral as possible. My personal recommendation is NPR’s daily newsletter. It gives me a great snapshot on current events. Taking an initiative to stay informed goes a long way. And for what it’s worth, it doesn’t hurt to watch Fox News and MSNBC to see how right and left wing media are reporting on current events issues — it makes you more well-rounded.
Avoid far right and far left media outlets
In the same vein as my previous suggestion, whether you’re a conservative or a liberal, solely relying on news from far right and far left news outlets will be of no benefit to you. They tend to over-amplify and over-hype news unnecessarily, to the point that their own stories fall in the “fake news” spectrum. So whether you’re all about InfoWars and Breitbart or Daily Kos and The Young Turks, my suggestion is take a step back and read up on current events from more moderate left and right news-oriented publications and news entities.
Keep an honest dialogue with your peers, especially those who think mainstream media is legitimately “fake news”
Many friends of mine think CNN, CBS, ABC, NBC, the New York Times, WaPo, and other news entities in the mainstream media report illegitimately to gain some type of edge against the Trump administration. I personally disagree with that, and that’s okay. I think it’s important for everyone on the left and right to have an open and candid conversation about current events. Isn’t that the essence of a free democracy and debate? That doesn’t mean we have to agree with everything our counterpart says. And it’s okay to speak up against any inaccuracies that we see or hear from our peers — or give stories that could potentially be viewed as hypocritical. The reporter who broke the story on Hillary’s emails was the same reporter who broke the story on the recent memo from James Comey — and if those aren’t contradicting stories, I don’t know what are.
I’d be kidding if I said that the war against “fake news” was over. It’s not, and it won’t be for some time. But I feel that if we play an active role in the fight against misreporting, we will have done our part in some small measurable but meaningful way.
Disclaimer: The political views presented in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Not Another Millennial Blog.