Many years ago when I was a marketing manager I had a great boss who used to say that when it came to marketing a brand or product, “perception is reality”. In other words, what people perceive to be real is what they will consider to be the reality. To a large extent I think this is the case with “fake news”. The more the term is used, the easier it is to feel that all news is fake.
Despite what some people have claimed, “fake news” is not a new issue. According to Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fake_news one of the earliest examples was as far back as the 13th century BC!
What is “fake news”? The Collins English Dictionary defines “fake news” as: False, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting (https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/fake-news).
So is there a Fake News epidemic? Are all the news organisations writing “fake news”? How can you tell? Who can you trust?
If we take the Collins definition then the answer is no, the news media is not full of false news. That is because reputable news organisations spend a lot of time and millions of pounds checking sources and making sure that the stories they run are as accurate as possible. In fact, every year journalists, photographers and cameramen die whilst trying to bring accurate news to us.
In addition, there are now numerous fact-checking websites that check stories and debunk them within hours of them appearing. Sites like www.snopes.com, www.FactCheck.org and www.FullFact.org. You can find links to more sites on our Useful Links page https://www.charlotteproject.org/useful-links/.
Reputable news sources do sometimes make mistakes. No news organisation is perfect but they will normally acknowledge their mistake and correct it quickly.
So if a person or organisation claims that a story is “Fake News” the questions we need to ask are:
- What’s the source of the story? Is it reliable?
- What other media outlets have written a similar story?
- What do the fact-checking websites say?
If other reputable media outlets are writing similar stories and the fact-checking websites confirm the stories are true then we have to ask ourselves why has the person or organisation called the story “Fake”?
- Has there been a genuine mistake?
- Does the media outlet have an agenda?
- If more than one media outlet has written a similar story then do they all have similar agendas? The website mediabiasfactcheck.com has a comprehensive database of media outlet bias.
- Is it just an easy response to the story, a bit like a naughty child automatically denying it was them when caught doing something they shouldn’t?
The big question is, do people and organisations that are accusing the media of ‘Fake News” share a common interest? What happens if, as a result of the number of accusations of “Fake News” we begin to doubt all news stories? If that happens, who benefits?
It’s easy to get confused with all the claims and counter claims of “Fake News” being bandied about. The good news is there are lots of reliable sites that you can go to in order to check facts and find out media bias. Why not use them?