Part of growing up is shedding naïve and overly idealistic concepts or beliefs. For many people, this might include things like the government always has our best interest at heart or that doctors wouldn’t prescribe harmful or addictive drugs to their patients because of financial bribes and pressure from the pharmaceutical industry. The news accurately covering the day’s events with honesty, integrity and truthfulness was, for a long time, taken for granted as fact. However, this has sadly continued to erode for a long time and when there is big money associated with media corporations, the narrative is often completely changed to fit the agenda associated with the political party that company is aligned with.
During the 2016 Presidential election night coverage, it was almost comical to switch back and forth between CNN and Fox News to hear the different and completely biased coverage each network had for their candidate and the unfolding results. Events that would seem to only have one truth, are quickly spun to reflect the ideologies and propaganda of one party or another. While not a part of the American English lexicon prior to Donald Trump winning the presidency, “fake news” was chosen as word of the year for 2017 by Collins Dictionary just a year later.
To add to the uncertainty of what we hear in modern media, well known and highly trusted broadcasters, such as Brian Williams, have been caught in outright lies about stories they’ve told. As if it wasn’t bad enough that the traditional institution of news media has devolved into such a state, we now have countless independent news sources promoting fake stories and false truths. Social media often provides a launching pad for far reaching dissemination at light speed. News, whether real or not, gets spread over the internet to all corners of the world. This growing problem with a lack of reliable information has resulted in a wide range of issues from the relatively benign false reporting of celebrity deaths to the more serious instances of accusations of treason at the highest levels of government. Although mainly a favorite accusation of President Trump, this is a bipartisan issue that has reached both parties and has disrupted the smooth operation of government and the productive discourse of the American people.
There is a growing sentiment that social media, mainly Facebook, has to do more in combating Fake News online. There are a number of tips for consumers of news media to avoid becoming victims of fake news stories. Examples include considering the source and its mission, read beyond the headlines, do a check on the author, investigate supporting sources, and checking the date for currency. Accurate, non-biased reporting of actual events is imperative to a successful and thriving democracy and we need to figure out a way to mitigate or altogether eliminate the problem of fake news.