The term “fake news” can be heard on almost every news channel and social media platform; it’s a hot topic in our world nowadays. But do people really know where fake news comes from? What is a typical person’s definition of fake news? It seems that today, people are more skeptical of where they get their information from. The rate of misinformation is presumably on the rise, but not from the widely-accused traditional media outlets; rather, it comes from social media.
An article from American Press Institute includes a survey which claims “a majority of Americans (51 percent) get news on social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Of these, Facebook is by far the most frequently cited social media platform for getting news.” The article goes on to mention how the social media news consumers do not “generally trust the news they see there” and “consume it with skepticism.” But if that is the case, why are those people engaging with the social media “news” as a means of gathering information when all it does is create more doubt in the minds of readers or lead them to create false interpretations?
The best route for viewers can then be to gather information via the journalists of the traditional media outlets such as CBS, NBC and more.
Now, another question arises: How can we know that the reporters are not inserting their opinions or personal biases into the stories they cover? Well, traditional journalism education focuses on avoiding expressing one’s opinion in order to convey the objective facts of a story. While a news outlet can be opinionated or partisan, the whole organization of traditional media is objective, allowing people to hear the arguments of two sides in topics such as politics. When it comes to the events or issues occurring in the world, ideally, if a news outlet is following the tenets of journalism by using objective reporting, the same event should be reported similarly throughout the world.
Social media is different from traditional media. Anyone, no matter their level of expertise or education, can post anything they desire, leading people to be skeptical of the information they receive. I, for one, can pay the $8 per month Twitter Blue subscription for a “verified” status and pose as Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal. I can create a username such as @SenatorRichardBlumenthal and claim I will draft bills that are irrelevant and pointless. Then, people might interact with my Tweets and spread the misinformation. This is just one way that fake news is created and spread. Conversely, we can know for a fact that information is true if either the senator announces it himself or if journalists such as Norah O’Donnell inform citizens, since journalists obtain their information through objective reporting practices.
Now skeptics will also ask how we can know whether or not the eyewitnesses that journalists interview are not just people who make up their story or exaggerate it. Well, journalists never ask just one or two people what happened; they ask many questions to both eyewitnesses and any present government officials before evaluating if the claims made by their eyewitnesses relate. If not, journalists will investigate further until they reach a “consensus” of what happened according to those eyewitnesses.
Social media in general allows everyone to freely express and share their ideas. But journalists get paid for the information they present and people must be able to have faith in a news source.
For instance, when natural disasters are about to occur, meteorologists discover these events through their research. Then, reporters working with meteorologists share that information, which is rarely a blatant lie. Of course, weather can change, and if the reporter or meteorologist fails to recognize the quick shift in the weather, the misinformation is due to minor human error rather than fake news.
Unfortunately, not all journalists and reporters will be completely honest, even if they are getting paid. There is a stereotype that deception is the basis of journalism, but we should look past a few bad apples. Social media has so much contradicting information that it is confusing to keep track of, so the best bet is to believe the traditional media. After all, people have to believe something to create a direction in their lives; to find out what is happening in the world and obtain relevant and crucial updates, journalists are the safest option.