47 Fake News Signals: Part 1 of 7

Four Kinds of News Sites

1-Quality news brands (like the New York Times and the BBC) have earned their reputations over time as consistently reliable news sources. Savvy news readers don’t expect as much from 2-inconsistent outlets that sometimes show bias but are not “fake” (such as Huffington Post, Fox News). Then there are 3-satirical news sources (The Onion and Clickhole). The articles and videos are intentionally fake but intended to be funny or make a point. They aren’t intended to fool anyone. 4-Fake news sites deliberately fabricate stories. These articles are packaged as legitimate journalism and may mix some truth with outright lies in order to deceivereaders or gain clicks.

Google Searches for “Fake News”

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Google Searches for “Fake News” by Region

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The Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics encourages journalists to “seek truth and report” and “be accountable and transparent” while doing it. Looking for these qualities is an effective way to separate the fake and the real.

What Fake News is Not

Some people will mislabel rumors, hoaxes, and real news stories they don’t like as “fake news.” Another area of confusion are stories that result from mistaken or bad journalism. 

Sometimes CNN, FOX, and Associated Press (AP) all get it wrong. Sometimes new information changes the basic understanding of what is known publicly. You wouldn’t call this fake news since the motivation of posting the original but mistaken information wasn’t to deceive. Cutbacks that leave newsrooms with fewer reporters and editors make it more likely news sites will get it wrong even when they are trying their best to get it right. The shift from legacy media like newspapers to digital has left the news industry scrambling to figure out how to financially support quality journalism.  

Between the pressure to meet quotas and competition with other publications, writers often don’t get the necessary time to craft thoughtful and nuanced stories—or possess the power to reject an assignment over concerns about amplification.

Inaccurate details, such as reporting that four people are dead in a plane crash instead of six, can be the result of an honest mistake. The wrong number might be heard or written down. 

During times of breaking news, information will quickly shift as it trickles into news organizations. It takes time to get a clear picture of what’s happening. Sometimes law enforcement officials or public relations professionals get the story wrong themselves and send out inaccurate information. At those times, news organizations are simply repeating mistakes. This is most likely to happen when there is only one source of information available when a story breaks. 

It’s worth noting that the approach of legacy news organizations (Washington Post, CNN) differs from new media outlets (BuzzFeed News, Politico). Traditional outlets aim at objectivity or neutral-voice reporting, where the focus is on being balanced, keeping the journalist’s opinions out of reports. Many recently launched news sites are more likely to focus on immediacy and transparency over neutrality, as well as updating readers whenever more information is known. Each approach presents different weaknesses for reporters to overcome. 

The bottom line: be skeptical and bring a critical mind with you to everything you read.

Fake News Signals: Part 2 of 7

Fake News Signals: Part 3 of 7 

Fake News Signals: Part 4 of 7

Fake New Signals: Part 5 of 7

Fake New Signals: Part 6 of 7

Fake New Signals: Part 7 of 7