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The idea of fake news has become a fact of life and apart of our everyday existence in terms of consuming news. There was a point in time where the distinction between The Onion and The New York Times was clear and distinct. But it’s become harder and harder these days, with the rise of social media platforms and a lack of structure around who can post what, you as a person living in a fast paced world, need to be extremely diligent in understanding what you’re reading.
The other ongoing issue in this increasingly political news world, is the ease in which bias can come to dominate the information we consume. News with a clear bias is another accepted fact of the journalism world of today. But it’s important not to get lost in your own perspective, and to help that it’s important to read news outlets from a variety of perspectives, slants and biases. With this piece we look to break down not only how to increase your horizons when it comes to consuming news, but also how not to get caught reading a fake news outlet.
Always be comparing
This piece of advice works for both sides of the conversation we’re having. When trying to spot fake news, always try to compare the information you’re reading against other outlets you know and are generally accepted as journalistically sound. The same concept applies when it comes to expanding your informational consumption.
When reading one article with a left wing or liberal slant, it’s important to consider the information that could have been left out, therefore look to a piece with a more right-wing or conservative viewpoint. Whether or not you agree with the opinion being conveyed, it’s crucial to understand the opinion opposite yours because if it’s important to you to have a well-rounded understanding of our news culture, it’s important to read all sides.
Read past the headlines
In a 2016 study released by computer scientists from Columbia University and the French National Institute, 59 per cent of news links shared on social media have never been clicked despite being shared thousands of times. And in an ecosystem where information literally comes at you every second it’s important to remain diligent in what you decide to share, because no matter what a twitter biography says about retweets not equalling endorsements, what you post does influence how your audience views you.
The other aspect about fake news is the headline itself. Often the headline is the most attractive part of the story, with the actual body of the story riddled full of mistakes, poor grammar and blatantly false information. So when reading a headline that claims former president Barak Obama banning the pledge of allegiance in schools nationwide, read further to understand what a hoax the headline actually is.
Who wrote the article? Have you ever read articles from this outlet before? Does the article rely on one specific fact to anchor its information? These are all questions you should be asking if you’re questioning the legitimacy of what you’re reading. Another great way to disseminate information is to use the same technology to analyze exactly what is it your reading. Websites like Politifact and their twitter account @Politifact are great ways to verify the news you’re reading. From “Truth,” to “Pants On Fire (which represents something completely false but widely spread) are just two of the multiple levels through which PolitiFact judges news sources.
The Canadian equivalent to Politifact are the hilariously named Baloney Meter a brainchild of the Canadian Press, which provides context to news stories with rankings such as “No Baloney,” to “Full of Baloney.” The other great resource we Canadians can rely on to pick out the fake new stories and develop a more succinct political news sense is Factscan.ca. It’s a website that offers an objective view of Canadian politics broken down by category.
Stay Curious and understand your echo chambers
I think the most important thing to keep in mind when engaging in any type of news or world event, is retaining a healthy curiosity. Even with publications and website that you trust fully, as an engaged citizen, you should be asking pointed questions that are relevant to what you’re reading. But I understand how easy it is to be comfortable in our habits. It’s not always fun or easy to question something you know and love, but it’s crucial to understanding our perspectives better.
The other aspect of staying curious in regards to our social media is the echo chamber that we live in. Who we follow, who follow us, the individual posts we see, are all apart of our sphere of consciousness. It’s generally understood that someone who skews liberal or left wing, will generally follow others of the same ilk on social media. Within that bubble so to speak, it’s easy to get caught up within a similar mindset to everyone around you. Pushing outside of your echo chamber and opening yourself up to opinions or perspectives different than yours, will most definitely broaden your sense of what’s happening in the world.