Journalistic Pandemic: Fake News

The idea of fake news plagued the world during the 2016 elections between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Trump would call out news reports that he believed were untrue (even if they were true) as fake news. Since then, people have become sensitive to any kind of news reports and will try to verify every piece of information.

Especially, if it came from social media.

Journalists have to be very careful when they receive information from any source on social media because they could be spreading false data to the public. It’s especially important when it comes to elections.

Election year is always a tense year for everyone. There is a visible divide between the red and blue supporters. Because of that, the sharing of false information based on certain political parties will have negative effects on both the journalist and the news house.

The biggest negative effect will be the lack of credibility that will be inflicted on both subjects. Thus, the journalist will have to work really hard to gain their credibility back or always be discredited by critics and the public. That’s why it’s very important to verify where new information is coming from.

Tom Trewinnard and Fergus Bell wrote a section on the book Journalism, ‘Fake News’ & Disinformation that provide a short yet effective process of verifying information. A journalist must be able to answer these questions:

  1. Is the content original, or has it been “scraped” from previous reporting and re-appropriated misleadingly?
  2. Has the content been digitally manipulated in some way?
  3. Can we confirm the time and place of the photo/video capture, using available metadata?
  4. Can we confirm the time and place of the photo/video capture, using visual clues in the content?

The answers to these questions will determine whether or not the new information is reliable and ready to be shared.

Steve Buttry wrote in the Verification Handbook that the job of a journalist “is not to parrot sources and the material they provide, but to challenge them, triangulate what they provide with other credible sources and verify what is true, weeding from our work (before we publish, map or broadcast) what is false or not adequately verified.”

He, also, explains that the verification consists of three important factors:

  1. A person’s resourcefulness, persistence, skepticism and skill
  2. Sources’ knowledge, reliability and honesty, and the number, variety and reliability of sources you can find and persuade to talk
  3. Documentation

Once a journalist is able to master all the verification factors that come with the process, they will be able to successfully share and introduce stories. All while keeping their credibility and securing the public with the correct information.

False information, or “Fake News,” can be seen in different shapes and sizes. They can come through a normal written article, a photoshopped image, a tweet, a video, a website or many other ways. It’s extremely important for a journalist to know how to verify each and every one of these ways of spreading fake news.

There are many websites that publish articles that are not fact checked, are purely opinion based and are completely biased. These are exceptionally prominent during election.

A good example is a website called Before It’s News. This website was cited by President Donald Trump in the 2016 elections. So, it can be concluded that this website supports the Conservative party.

From the main page, the reader can already become suspicious, as far as credibility goes. It contains captions with all caps, which is not normal for a credible article. It also shares a biblical video with a bible verse. This means the website is religious, which now means there is bias in their content.

One of their articles explains why Donald Trump needs to win the 2020 election. Their reasoning says that only Trump can get rid of the accumulated US debt.

This written article does not have a contributing author. However, reading through the article, the author is describing an interview with two men, Bill Holter & Jim Sinclair. They are described in the article as financial experts.

Through the interview, they merely state that Trump will take the country out of debt by all the things he wishes to accomplish. That is even more suspicious because they don’t provide mathematical explanations. If we look up the name of one of the interviewees, we come up with a website that has a disclaimer.

The disclaimer basically says that they have their own opinions and could potentially be wrong. So now, it is safe to say that this page and its articles are not reliable and should not be used to spread news.

Websites and articles are not going to say upfront that what they post are potential lies. So, a journalist must be very nit-picky in verifying things.

Because even a little detail can be categorized as FAKE NEWS.


I am a Journalist (in the making). University of Houston. Valenti School of Communication.