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Last updateWed, 18 Nov 2020 1pm

Editorial

The Phenomenon of "Fake News"

default article imageThe phrase “fake news,” which refers to news stories that publish false information, has been used quite often on social media in recent years. As the student-run newspaper of Monmouth University, The Outlook editors discussed their views on the implications of “fake news.”

One editor said, “I think it is unbelievably dangerous for people, and especially the president, to claim our media is all ‘fake news.’ If we do not have the media as the fourth estate, then we have nothing as a country. Without the media, we are simply allowing a few elites to dictate our entire lives.”

“Fake news is out there but not all of the news is fake,” commented an editor. “The claims that people and the president have been making about fake news is dangerous.”

It’s good to be skeptical and question things you read—that’s even an important trait for a journalist to have. However, it becomes a problem when readers label something as “fake news” when they simply do not agree with the facts being published.

Many of those who attack reporters on social media do not realize how important news and the media is. Without journalists, there is no one to inform the public about events or issues not only in our country, but around the world. In fact, it was two Washington Post reporters who began the Watergate scandal that led to investigations of President Nixon.

One editor said, “It’s no coincidence that the growth of distrust with the media and journalists in general directly aligns with the time period of President Trump making disparaging remarks about the industry. It would take the minimal amount of effort to cross reference what you hear from a cable news station with a neutral source, but people enjoy being angry too much to ever commit enough effort to doing something so simple.”

Some publications, such as USA Today, have even dedicated sections of their newspapers to fact-checking claims across social media. It is important for readers to be aware that fake news can exist, and that reviewing other sources can give a clear sense of what is accurate and what is not.

Some editors also noted that news sources sometimes “clickbait” a reader by publishing a deceiving headline, a common tactic in tabloid newspapers. One editor said, “When a person reads a title or a headline that strikes them in a certain way, usually in an outrageously abhorrent way, they are more inclined to immerse themselves in that news regardless of its validity since it is so eye-catching and compelling.”

Another editor added, “News outlets do have the tendency to sensationalize to draw in viewers, which is dangerous. But the outlets have to increase their viewer and readership some way, so they create catchy headlines and take eye-catching photographs or videos to draw viewers in. So, people need to develop their media literacy skills to better decipher the truth from the news and to learn what fake news looks like.”

As journalism students, we are equipped with the tools to find out whether news is “fake” or not. Under the instruction and guidance of our professors, we are able to strengthen our media literacy skills, which allows us to detect misinformation. For example, we know that information and quotes must be attributed to a source, most often an expert in a specific subject area, in order for an article to be credible.

The antidote to “fake news” is research. One editor said, “The phrase ‘fake news’ is easy to throw around when you’re pressed with information that is not easy to accept. It’s just so easy to find the truth behind a particular topic by reading the many different neutral publications. To label all of journalism as one particular thing just comes across as being intimated by education.”

The beginning of the pandemic in March also saw an increase in claims that news sources are “fear mongering,” deliberately spreading false or exaggerated news to spur fear and manipulate the public. Just like fake news, while fear mongering may exist, claiming that every article about COVID-19 is “fear mongering” can have alarming consequences. Publishing accurate facts and statistics about the virus is not “fear mongering.” It is simply informing the public, which is a journalist’s responsibility. If readers disregard important news about COVID-19 because they think the media is “fear mongering,” then it would have disastrous consequences on public health.

News and media outlets have a commitment to publishing honest, fair, and accurate news. Fake news does exist, and it hinders the credibility of other journalists and news outlets. It causes readers to be less willing to trust any news article they come across.

However, a major problem arises when people claim a news story is “fake” just because they may not agree with what they read. While fake news is dangerous, it is even more dangerous for people to distrust the media outlets that are committed to publishing real, accurate, and important news.

 

PHOTO COURTESY of Monmouth University

Contact Information

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The Outlook
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and Instructional Technology (CCIT)
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Monmouth University
400 Cedar Ave, West Long Branch, New Jersey
07764

Phone: (732) 571-3481 | Fax: (732) 263-5151
Email: outlook@monmouth.edu