3 Tips for Spotting Fake News in the Real World
“You see all these stories from organizations you may never have heard of, and it seems like a legitimate news source,” Montana Public Radio’s Eric Whitney shared at a recent Fake News panel* held at Flathead Valley Community College. “They’ll have a headline that says, ‘You can lose weight by eating ice cream.’ I mean, I’ll click on that because I want to believe that! [And then] boom, I forward that to 50 people and it keeps spreading and spreading, [until] everyone is talking about it. Pretty soon, people think it’s true.”
Deciphering fake news – or “published information that is deliberately false or misleading” - in the real world is growing more difficult by the week. Whether bogus survivor posts plastered on social media after a bombing, or stories that appear legitimate, there is no denying that fake news is impacting the way we consume information today.
During the "Fake News Workshop," reporters from The Daily Inter Lake, The Flathead Beacon and Montana Public Radio weighed in on the impacts of fake news in the 21st century. Each journalist touched on the rise of misleading news, how they see it manifesting itself on the local level and how easily it can spread through things like social media.
So, how can consumers protect themselves from fake news in the social sharing era? Our reporters weigh in:
Think critically and carefully
“There is an old adage from journalism school, ‘If your mother says she loves you, check it out.’ Be skeptical. You believe that to be true but what’s the empirical evidence?” Whitney shared. He also recommended checking the “About” section of news sites. If there is no “About” section or it’s “super vague,” Whitney says it is likely fake.
Use personal judgment
The Flathead Beacon’s Tristan Scott said using personal judgment is also imperative when identifying fake news. “You might click on the something from The Guardian (a legitimate news source) or it might be from The Denver Guardian, a self-proclaimed fakes news site, so it requires that additional layer of being discerning and being smart and careful readers.”
Practice good “news hygiene”
Ultimately, perhaps the best way to fight fake news is to have a well-rounded “media diet.” This includes reading a variety of news sources, even ones that don’t necessarily align with one’s personal or political beliefs. “I think it is important to consume news and opinion from sources that espouse opinions that you agree with and also those that you don’t agree with,” Scott said. In other words, the more news sources you read, the better you can spot if something is misleading.
*The “Fake News Workshop,” hosted by ImagineIF Libraries, was held on Wednesday, May 24 at Flathead Valley Community College. Kim Crowley, director of ImagineIF Libraries, moderated a panel that included The Daily Inter Lake’s Managing Editor, Frank Miele, The Flathead Beacon’s Senior Writer, Tristan Scott and Montana Public Radio’s News Director, Eric Whitney.