We have always had fake news. Saturday Night Live has offered “Weekend Update” for four decades now, giving us a brief true headline, followed by a wildly humorous critique, never meant to be taken seriously. The Daily Show has expanded that idea into a full show with correspondents reporting back to the anchor desk. Even if there was a valid point made, the main goal was to get a laugh.
The internet age has given us The Onion, a newspaper that looks legit, but again is just in it for the laughs. Sample headlines:
- “Nurse Reminds Elderly Man She’s Just Down The Hall If He Starts To Die”
- “Millions Of Drunk Cubs Fans Rioting In Heaven Following World Series Win”
- “Subway Breeding Program Successfully Creates Black Forest Ham–Meatball Marinara Hybrid”
But now, sites are popping up with no plans for a punch line, claiming that Pope Francis endorsed Donald Trump, or that an FBI agent involved in the Clinton email leaks was found dead. Neither of these stories are true. This is a problem.
Some quick ways you can help, if someone passes a news article to you.
- Check the date of the article. Sometimes people will pass on an old article under the guise of current events. I’ve seen it happen with boys missing on fishing boats, deaths of rock stars, and political events.
- This should go without saying, but don’t pass on any article you haven’t read. I’ve had people share articles with me based on the headline, and when I’ve commented back, I’ve received a “Well, I didn’t actually read the article, but…”
- Do a little due diligence before passing anything on. I know many new sites are biased regardless of what the bias is. But I’m guessing if the Pope really endorsed Donald Trump, then more than WTOE 5 would be reporting it.
Retractions never get as much press as the original post, but by not being part of the problem, we can all take a step in being part of the solution.