The news industry has taken a kick to the chest. The fake news phenomena puts reporters under the microscope and nurtures the growing mistrust of the media by the public. This all sounds bad, but this could actually have a positive effect on the way news is reported.
Although the battle with fake news has many questioning if they should believe news outlets or not, one thing is certain. The vigilance and camaraderie of professional reporters has strengthened, and these are just two examples of how fake news has contributed in a positive way to news media.
Fake News has brought attention to the quality of journalism that we consume on a daily basis. It has also raised, in some circles, the level of media literacy that an individual should have when watching or reading news. This rising in awareness has also forced many professionals in media to be more thorough with fact checking. The ability to maintain an audiences trust is crucial and keeping this hinges on the delivery of honest facts.
Of course, fake news has hurt those working in news media tremendously. When a journalist makes an error it seems as though someone is ready to yell out “Fake News”. The mistake could have been an honest one, but now the reporter and the network or newsprint he/she works for becomes the target for the “fake news” label. This makes it difficult for the average person to differentiate between a credible news source and one that may be spreading lies.
Many have pointed to social media as one of the main sources for the propagation of fake news. This makes sense as many people live and interact with only those who think and feel the way they do about social and news issues. Couple that with the fact that these same sites build algorithms based on the content that you read. They then advertise and present the material you would be most interested in based on the sites you visited. This is a recipe to develop what author Eli Pariser calls ” the filter bubble“.
This “filter bubble” is viewed by some as a key cause for the spread of false information. As I mentioned in my last post, it is easier for a person to accept an untrue statement or news story given with facts, as long as it coincides with their belief. Then, when you add in the fact that they surround themselves with like minded individuals who will undoubtedly agree, then you have a scenario that develops into fake news being spread. This is the bad side of fake news that we are most familiar with.
Who do we believe? Is it the person that agrees with me 90 percent of the time, or the one that goes against me? According to the Pew Research Center, many Americans feel that the dissemination of false information has left a large portion of the population confused about basic news facts. Despite this, the citizens polled also expressed great confidence in their ability to detect fake news. Even with all this confidence the survey shows that about a quarter of the adult population have confessed to sharing fake news, whether they new it to be true at the time or not.
It can be hard to see the positive impact of an otherwise negative issue that is “fake news”, but it seems like this renewed interest in the way we consume news will bring about some of the change that we all wish for. As we become more media literate, the demand for more honesty and transparency will not only impact the ones reporting, but it will also hold those being reported on to a higher standard. Hopefully, a higher standard that will slowly become standard.