What is Fake News?

What is Fake News?
By Gail Hunt

The term “Fake news” may be taking center stage in today’s digital arena, but it has really been around since the beginning of time, distributed through different mediums of the day.  “Fake news” is a growing phenomenon in the media-saturated world we live in today.  Its intended definition was to refer to deliberate misinformation and news that was false, while today the term is used freely for opinions and statements that one just doesn’t like or agree with.  

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Fake news also aims to persuade people to adopt a certain point-of-view, through deliberate lies and manipulation. Whether it's a Tweet, a share on Facebook, or a newscast story, its intention is to resemble legitimate news stories.When a story contains fabrications and is presented as a legitimate news story, it is fake news.  

Examples of Fake News in the media:

Back in 1938, Orson Welles performed an adaptation of H.G. Wells’s 40 year old novel, “War of the World's”, with on-air fake news bulletins, describing a Martian invasion in New Jersey.  This broadcast caused hysteria, with calls to police, newspaper offices and radio stations across the country.  Many people panicked, and were convinced that the story was true

War Of The World story on NPR’s Radio Lab.

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President Donald Trump has embraced “fake news” and often uses the term against the news media.  


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Fake news as a hoax:

Fake news also has a huge commercial side to it. “Clickbait”, which is rarely newsworthy, is a term used to entice a reader to a particular site, by using catchy and sometimes provocative headlines.  Once the reader has been lured to the site, there is a good chance they will click on the link to read further.  This is a win-win for the click-baiter, as more clicks equals more money to the site.  Its intention is making money by luring the reader to deceptive news stories, a.k.a. fake news.

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Overall, “Fake News” is something that we all need to be cognizant of, as well as be responsible for what we share online.  Ask yourself, “is the story backed by facts?”, “are other news organizations reporting the same stories?” Always check your sources, and of course, use your common sense.  If a story sounds too good to be true, or outwardly outrageous, it probably is fake news.