Letter from the editors
While writing the front-page story on fake news, we received an alert that the Washington Post is admitting that their “Russian Propaganda Fake News” story may be fake.
As journalists, it is extremely disappointing to learn that one of the biggest news corporations has strayed from the ethics that we hold at the core of our profession.
It seems that recently, fake news has been consuming the media. Now, not even the most reliable sources are safe. There are websites created for the sole purpose of producing propaganda, hoaxes and disinformation. There are thousands of them looming, publishing absurd, false content. Yet the common reader is not able to discern between fact and fallacy. Americans are virtually unable to differentiate between real and fake headlines.
Fake news is hurting journalism. If a story has been published, read and shared thousands of times on social media and the publisher has to admit it’s false, this creates a significant trust gap between the media and its readership. It mars journalism’s reputation, and brings us away from the standards that we try to and should uphold.
Since the age of yellow journalism, a type of reporting that’s based on sensationalism, scandal and exaggeration in the early 1900s, journalists have been working to reform the profession. Since then, journalism has improved dramatically, but the rise of fake news is a step backwards.
But even greater than its effects on journalism as a profession is its effect on people. One of the responsibilities of good reporting is to provide readers with accurate, honest, unbiased and fair information. Journalism is a service to the public that helps them formulate opinions and make informed decisions. When even the most respected publications are not doing their job properly, then the public can’t expect to receive what they deserve.
In the past election, there was a surge of fake news that began to circulate the web about both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as well as their supporters and aides. Gripping headlines caught readers’ eyes and misinformation went viral. But, journalists give readers the information, and they make their decision, like who to vote for, based off of it, so tainted or biased messages can sway voters in a direction they may not have gone in if there wasn’t fake news.
Fake news isn’t just leading people to make misinformed decisions, but it has also created dangerous situations.
A story was published on Monday, Dec. 5 by abc News about Edgar Maddsion, a 28-year-old man who went into a pizza shop armed because he wanted to investigate a conspiracy theory regarding Hillary Clinton that spread during her campaign.
That is why fact checking is so important. This is just one example of the collateral damage that fake news has done. And the fact that false statements were published on The Washington Post means they were not doing everything in their power to verify the information they received. This leaves it up to the readers to be the judges of whether or not what they’re reading is true, a task that usually falls on the reporter.
Since the North Pointe publishes news after it has been verified by other professional publications, you can rely on us for accurate reports. All community and school news is also backed administrators, teachers and student sources. We talk to our sources in person or over email, and never use anonymous sources to ensure that the knowledge we receive is not being fabricated. We wish we could say the same for all news providers.
So, we urge not just voters, but all people to be wary of what they read, especially if it’s found on social media. Cross reference other news organizations for a story that you suspect could hold false disclosure. It’s sad to think that we can’t rely on the publisher themselves to do the fact checking for readers, a basic principle of good reporting, but we can’t let fake news continue to go viral.