With the ever increasing problem of misinformation – it’s become much easier to mislead someone rather than convince them that they’ve been misled. In 2016, fake news stormed the headlines, especially within the political landscape.
Like anything else, fake news disproportionately affects racial and religious minorities, either with the lack of proper sourcing or with the lack of adequate information.
Because of the plethora of misinformation, it’s important to know how one can distinguish between false and reliable information.
In September of 2016, Gallop Poll concluded that public trust in the media is currently at an all-time low. Many believe that if you don’t read the news, you’re uninformed. However, if you read the news, you’re misinformed. Thankfully, we’ve pinpointed ways you can identify misinformation in 2017.
Simply put, fake news constitutes erroneous information with the intent to deceive or misinform the public – as distributed by a journalist, media conglomerate or an individual.
Now that we’ve characterised what classifies as fake news, here are five key factors in identifying and ultimately quelling misinformation.
1. Read beyond the headline
Before sharing an article on social media, if it’s new, read the article in its entirety. The complexities of a story are not always detailed in the headlines – and can often be misleading. Headlines are meant to grab your attention – not tell the whole story. It’s the minute details that can change the entire meaning of an article. As a general rule-of-thumb, don’t trust the headline alone – you’ll automatically be ahead of the curve on information.
2. Cross-check: Get at least 3 sources of information
If you are consistently receiving your news from a single source – then you are more likely to be susceptible to fake news. This especially applies to breaking news. Far too often, it’s more important for media outlets to be first, instead of being correct. It’s imperative that you correlate your information from more than one source. Being informed – means reading information with healthy scepticism – and never trust one source entirely. If necessary, be willing to change your source – and your perspective.
3. Opinions are not news
Your favourite show or media personality is not a replacement for news. Everyone has a bias, but the goal is to be objective. A good barometer of truth is observing if your favourite news personality consistently cites their sources. And just as you should always question your news with healthy scepticism, question the motives of the source as well. Where the information from is obtained from, can be as important as the information itself.
It’s okay to give analysis and opinions on factual information – as long as it’s understood that, it alone, is not news. No one news personality has a monopoly on truth. Most media personalities are there to cater to your existing bias rather than to correctly inform you. Many media conglomerates aren’t dedicated to disseminating viable information – that’s up to you.
4. Memes and video clips aren’t always accurate
In the age of social media, memes & video clips are often catchy, sexy – and too often, wrong. Obviously, not every meme or clip is invalid, but they aren’t always presented in proper context. Always check the validity of a source, and what outlet it is coming from. With generators, it is far too easy to make a meme nowadays – as well as creating video clips.
Doing at least minimal research is a must before circulating information on any social-media platform.
5. Updating and correcting information
A person who can openly admit their mistakes is a person you can trust – this is also true in the media. This may be the least obvious key point on this list – but check to see if your favourite news program or media outlet occasionally updates or corrects misinformation. If so, this is a source you can generally rely on.
If you are consistently seeing a media outlet disseminate information without sourcing it, or not updating its information, then find another news source. Understanding that no journalist or media outlet is completely accurate is pertinent – we all make mistakes – including those in the media.
We’re professional journalists who proudly advocate for equal rights. We unite those who are marginalized.