In a society where news is prominent in everyday lives, media has the ability to construct individual perception. The first television children watch often develops their worldview, influences their thoughts, and manipulates their ideas. According to Pew Research Center, people are spending more time viewing news today than they were a decade ago. But with this increased news consumption, there can be a gap of gaining information when fake news is involved in reporting.
Fake news can be an exaggerating headline to attract more readers to click on their article, using sources that fabricate news stories, and portraying one side of a story. Another way there can be a distortion in reporting is when bias is reported in the story. Biased reporting is when they favor for or against one thing, thus not reporting the whole story. In fact, National Geographic, a magazine established in 1888, reflected on their past reporting and determined their stories showed racist tendencies. According to their March 2018 story, National Geographic acknowledged much of their reporting rarely portrayed people of color unless they were laborers or domestic workers, and thus did not cover the full image of African Americans.
If fake and biased news exists, how can readers tell the difference between real and fake news and biased news?
Beware of bias: Bias can be incorporated into all news outlets, even the national outlets. According to Dictionary.com, bias is prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair. Therefore, while reading an article be aware of any bias that might exist in the article. You should be asking yourself questions like, “Are they only interviewing a certain type of person”, “Are they portraying only a certain type of person”, “Are they looking at both sides of the story or only one”. These questions can help you detect bias the article may have.
Consider the sources: While reading the article, look closely at the sources used. The sources a journalist uses should be someone who is closely related to the topic, and someone who is an expert in their field. For example, if the article is about a crime that happened, a good source would be a police officer and a witness. If the story is about mental health, a psychologist or counselor would be a good source.
Know the news outlet: Before reading an article, beware of the source you are getting your information from. Has the news outlet been known to have false tendencies in their writing? Have they been known to correct incorrect information? Knowing the source can help determine right away whether or not it would be a reliable source to get your information from.
Back up information found on social media, with other news outlets: Social media has incorporated ways to share news with their audience. For example, Snapchat incorporated ‘Discover’ to share news with over five news outlets. Twitter also started ‘What’s Happening’ to inform people about news in the world. However, according to Deakin University’s Dr. Kristy Hayes, Communications Professors, says, “Facebook is not held to account the same way that mainstream media is when it comes to upholding and sharing accurate, reliable information.” Therefore, after reading an article on social media, make sure you check other news sources, like national outlets, to make sure they are sharing the same information that is reliable. If they do share relevant information, you can assume it is real news.
Although fake news exists, there are ways readers can depict fake news vs. real news and biased news while reading the article. Make sure to be aware of bias, consider the sources, know the news outlet, and back up information found on social media.