The spread of fake news in these uncertain times is sadly ubiquitous and commonplace. Gone are the days when an entire nation gathered round Walter Cronkite with the assurance that they were getting reliable, well-researched objective news. Fortunately, there are many things we can do to help eliminate our intake of lies and misinformation threatening our world.
Read Past the HeadlineOften, a National Enquirer style headline will grab our attention, its very outrageousness screaming at us to not be ignored. With attention spans measured in nano-seconds, people are tempted to pass a headline along without even a cursory glance at the content. Reading even a few sentences or paragraphs past the headline will often reveal the article as satirical in nature, or blatantly false.
THIS IS NOT A HOAX!!!
Except, it is. Be wary of large bold headlines decrying falsehood. Often accompanied by an abundance of exclamation points or CAPITAL LETTERS, amateurs attempt to pass themselves or their messages as truth. Good journalism does not rely on cheap tricks of presentation.
Check Your Personal Biases
This is difficult because it requires self-examination. People are wired to believe what they want to believe. Take care to remain open to new information even if it makes you uncomfortable in confronting your personal views of a person, a people, a cause and effect event. Be vigilant of your own slants and read conflicting opinions for a more well-rounded, centered point of view.
Check the Author’s Byline and Date of ReportageOften the author’s name provides some very clear and obvious clues to the nature of an article. Whether an article is meant to be funny or malicious, check the author’s credibility. Do they write for National Lampoon or the National Review? Similarly, check the date of an article. An older article, well-intentioned but since disproven, can be misrepresented as today’s truth.
Be Your Own Fact Checker
Everyone has an ax to grind so check the facts before rushing to post on social media. Snopes, FactCheck, Washington Post, and PolitiFact are a few excellent choices to get the lowdown on the veracity of dubious news claims. Check several sites to find points of agreement common to multiple sources.
We all share responsibility for what we propagate. Remember that our actions have consequences.