The 'Truth'

The topic of Fake News has become such a hot topic and has now become a conversation that takes places almost everyday in our lives (especially if you are in the PR and Marketing industry at least). It's important to keep in mind however that fake news has been an ongoing issue for decades now - yep it's nothing new. What news are hidden from us? Who orchestrates the news and selects which ones are published? In this age of social and digital media, many of use instantly believe the headlines we see whether its on Twitter, Facebook or even on newspapers without even checking the sources or cross checking with other providers. This is one of the key reasons why fake news gets passed on and gets spread so far that it is perceived as real news. Rumors. 

For a great insight to how fake news are being generated and published - check out this straight forward article by PR Daily. They broke it down into six key points.

  1. Historical Propaganda: Biased, fact-twisting articles, political propaganda and sensational stories published throughout history 
  2. Citizen Journalism: News organisations are no longer first to the scene. In this ever growing digital landscape with almost everyone possessing smartphones, the average person now has an active role in capturing and distributing news and information to the masses. Some people however do ignore journalism ethics and news become skewed
  3. First vs. Facts: Several major news outlets focused on being the 'first' to spread the news rather than taking time to understand the key facts before speculating and therefore spreading inaccurate, misleading or even fake news. 
  4. Page View Journalism: The age of online news coverage brought about significant change regarding how the public consumes news, but it also changed how journalists got paid. The rise of click-bait headlines is the obvious product of Page View Journalism. Sensational headlines get clicks 
  5. Selective News: It's disturbing to see more and more people limiting themselves to content that only supports their political bias. It's even more disturbing that we have so many "news outlets" that outwardly support partisan politics. What happened to listening to both sides and coming to a rational decision based on history and facts?
  6. Post-Truth Politics: Feelings have replaced facts. Partisan rhetoric and talking points have replaced factual, thoughtful rebuttals. 
Donald Trump You're Fake News

The controversy around fake news exploded because of the absurd statements and claims made by Donald Trump. Basically, it seems every news provider that criticizes or scrutinizes the actions of Donald Trump is remarked as 'fake news' by the Trump administration. I mean, considering all the things Trump has done so far since becoming president, how can you not openly criticize his irrational decisions, lies and behavior? And is he even running the country? Seems to me he's sidetracked. Nonetheless here's a short list of what he's managed to do.

  • He declared the mainstream media the "enemy of the American people".
 
Trump Fake News Tweet
 
  • Used the executive branch's immense authority over border control to inflict arbitrary cruelty on thousands of Muslim immigrants, create chaos at airports all across America, and sour diplomatic relations with the rest of the world.
  • Violated court orders against his travel ban.
  • Told a demonstrable lie about the size of the crowd at his inauguration - and predicted that the media would "pay a big price" for refusing to repeat it. 
 
Trump Inauguration Crowd
 
  • Held a nuclear strategy session in the public dining room of his Florida resort.
  • Declined to publicly condemn the shooting of two Indian-born engineers by a man who (allegedly) said "get out of my country," as he fired.
  •  Declared the court system a threat to national security 
 
Trump opinion on court system
  • Publicly condemned a private company for dropping his daughter's (increasingly unpopular) fashion line.
 
trumps' daughter fahsion line
 
  • Defamed a hero of the civil-rights movement in a series of racist tweets.
 
Trump John Lewis
 
  • Suggested that America's intelligence agencies might be turning the United States into something akin to Nazi Germany 
 
trump nazi germany
 
  • Repeatedly denigrated America's intelligence agencies, then leaked plans to downsize them
 
trump intelligence agencies
 
  • Replaced the White House website's page on climate change with a vow to drill for oil and federal lands
  • Handed the Environmental Protection Agency to a climate change denialist

Obviously there are tons of other things president Trump has done but the question is, how can journalists report any of this without getting yelled 'fake news' at their faces by the Trump administration? Then there's the whole thing about #alternativefacts which I won't get into. Journalists from major media outlets including CNN and the New York Times were even barred from The White House.

There's no one better in my opinion to explain this nonsense that Seth Meyers! I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

oh that the #alternativefacts that I didn't want to get into...

Now as a newspaper or leading publication, how can you not fight back against Trump's accusations? The New York Times aired a television ad for the first time in seven years during the awkward Oscar's ceremony. During the simple ad, statements flash across the screen beginning with, "The truth is our nation is more divided than ever." The statements that follow are popular phrases or versions of the truth that are used by Trump and his supporters and then statements used by his opponents. 

David Rubin, the branding executive at the Times explained the purpose of the ad

The Idea is to be a part of that discussion about what does it mean to find the truth. What does that mean in a world of “fake news?” And what is the role of journalism and journalists in that process and what is the role of the reader in supporting that journalism?

We think it’s a great metaphor for how hard it is on a regular basis to understand the truth. That leads into the role that we think journalism can play in helping you cut through that clutter and make your own sense of what’s going on in the world.

We wanted a high profile media moment. This felt like a great moment for people to respond and react to the spot.

This message clearly reflected the issue at large with fake news, how the Times were tackling the issue and it definitely did its job in raising awareness of fake news and seeking the truth

And this is how Trump responded...

 
trump responded to the times
 

So in all seriousness, how do we tackle the issue of 'fake news'

  1. Hold Journalists Accountable: Scrutinizing the credibility through facts and sources. Period. 
  2. Do Your Own Research: Stop spreading news that you question, are misleading or know are false! Before you hit that 're-tweet' or 'share' button on social media, just think about what you are doing and check whether the source is credible or not - because as we are becoming even more 'literate' in this information-cluttered world, you will look like the idiot if you spread fake news.
  3. Stop Reading Headlines as Facts: Yep, headlines are not facts! Headlines nowadays are used to get you to click into something or navigate onto a particular site. They don't count as the cold, hard truth. 
  4. Challenge Fake News: When you see something that is misleading on the internet or in print, don't just sit there and hope it will disappear and won't affect others - report it, respond to it, challenge it, question it and make sure that is taken down and doesn't get the credibility or 'hits' it desires.