Fake News has been the talk during the campaign trail last year, and especially a trending debate nowadays. University of Minnesota (U of M) Journalism Ethics Professor, Chris Ison, held an event at the Minneapolis Hennepin County Library to discuss the phenomenon of fake news and how to effectively identify it.

As it turns out, fake news in journalism comes and go. However, the issue of false news stories has been emerging for some time. But Ison confirmed it isn´t real new. In his presentation, he discussed false reports from popular in tabloids for example.

In addition, successful advertising wants to have the look and feel of the news is or partisan. In other words, advertising is a distant cousin.

To answer the question of what is fake news the professor explained that its intent is to deceive. It can also be defined as false information for profit, partisan, and fun reasons. On the other hand, what is not fake #news is truthful reporting that partisan audiences do not like, according to Ison.

An important note that when referring to the “media” one needs to be mindful of a couple of key concepts. First, the word media is a useless term by itself, and one must specifically talk about what types of media are we referring to. There are traditional channels (broadcast, newspapers, radio, magazines,) and newer platforms we can include blogs, websites, apps, etc.

Resources and strategies to detect fake news

What has changed in today’s news ecosystem is the amount of information created, and the number of organizations distributing news. The task on readers has never been greater, yet they must verify to a certain extent news reports they come across on their devices.

Some things to think about when evaluating a source of information do the following:

  • Does the entity or organization have an agenda?
  • Does it have trained and qualified journalists?
  • Does it differentiate between news and opinion?
  • Does the group, agency or company have a code of ethics?
  • Does it correct errors?

These are solid guided questions to really ponder and reflect when ruling out fake news analysis.

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Just because a piece of content or news is on Facebook or Twitter does not mean it is legitimate. This requires looking at how the headline is written, the tone of the piece, and use of primary sources.

Is it quoting somebody and naming the source? If it does not mention these details or includes an original URL hyperlinked it is likely we are talking about a misleading news report.

Utilizing fact checkers to debunk fake news reports

Newsrooms within media organizations, for the most part, do lots fact-checking and verifying information. After all, their mission is to report the truth and report news events independently.

When you seek to remove doubt on whether something is true or not here are some resources to consider. The three sites to utilize are Snopes, FactCheck, and PolitiFact. Not only are these entities reliable, but go to great lengths to intercept fake news reports.

When asked about the changes in journalism enterprise and impact of social media Ison added " Social media is a major factor in fake news and poorly done news because it has made a lot of readers very passive in that people go on Facebook and they read whatever comes to their Facebook page.

They need to make conscious decisions and where this stuff is coming from."

Takeaways

Fake news came about especially during the American election and has garnered negative attention. It has also become problematic to mitigate it. Tech giants Facebook and Google were scrutinized for not having the necessary tools to prevent false stories from spreading.

Readers do not need to be well-versed in the tenets of journalism or have to know all the facts. They just need to apply some of these processes to accurately find reliable and trusted news sources.