I’m talking to you, fellow Facebook friends. I am sick and tired of seeing your shared Facebook articles that are frankly tarnishing the good name of journalists everywhere.
I know many of us pride ourselves on our ability to recognize fake news when we see it, but a lot of times it is hiding in plain site.
Many individuals whole-heartedly believe that the Huffington Post is just as credible and prestigious as The New York Times or The Washington Post, but allow me to let you in on a little secret: it is not.
The aforementioned sites have “a lot of credibility…built into them through the history, the legacy, the high standards,” according to Devin Kate Pope, a journalist at ASU State Press.
The Huffington Post, however, is a relatively new publication, and its standards have not yet met an acceptable level of credibility.
Instead, the HuffPost relies primarily on “gossip and fluff”. Take a look at this ridiculous headline I’ve seen come across my Facebook feed: White People Should Be Banned From Doing Yoga. Instead of relying on hard-hitting journalism, HuffPost posts click-bait-y articles to generate traffic.
Many “How to Spot Fake News” tutorials will warn you against “scrapers” and “content farms,” which is blatantly stealing other news articles or writing incredibly unoriginal articles that are there only for those common search terms.
HuffPost does not do this per se, but it does commit another heinous offense: aggregation. Aggregation is not a crime exclusive to the HuffPost. In fact, it is becoming more and more common; however, it is still disrespectful to journalism.
What is aggregation? Aggregation is the act of taking key passages from other news organizations and placing (and citing!) it in your article. Now, this may not seem bad. In fact, you probably see it all the time. However, the trouble is that when people are searching those key terms, sites like the HuffPost pop up before the original.
You’re probably saying, “Well, Emily I just saw where you linked in a couple of key phrases. Aren’t you guilty of aggregation now?”
To put it simply, no. Why? Because I am writing an article that is not technically news, and I’m relying on other experts to make my point. I’m crediting their original thoughts so that I am not guilty of plagiarism, but I’m also using their points to make it known that this is not the first time someone has accused the HuffPost.
On top of this all, I am not a news expert. In order to me to write this article fairly, I rely on the research of others to support my point. However, the HuffPost should have qualified journalists that are capable or writing their own article. Overall, their news articles don’t need citations in the sense that this article does. Let me paint a picture:
When your favorite local news channel wants to inform the public about a local crime, they do not turn to another local news channel to cite their information. Instead, they send trained, college-educated journalists into the field to collect information. Once they have all of the details, they then report their findings.
The HuffPost is relying on other journalists to do the work for them, and that is just not fair when it comes to reporting the news.
Sadly, aggregation is only one of the many issues with the HuffPost. Upon further investigation, you will find a variety of other complaints.
For example, have you ever noticed how everything posted leans left? Don’t get me wrong, I’m as left as they come, but, when it comes to news, you’re simply uninformed if you’re only reading one, biased source.
The goal of news sources everywhere is to remain as unbiased as possible. The HuffPost, instead, remains incredibly biased, and I never feel like I get the whole story.
So, my fellow grrls, from this day forward vow to stop sharing these measly news articles. Instead, challenge yourself to read other sources, and always, always, always check your sources.
Here are some simple questions you can ask when you stumble across a source in your Facebook feed and you’re wondering if it is credible:
• Take a collective look at the site. Is it well-made? What are the ads like? Does it look at all reputable?
If the answer to any of those is “no,” it probably isn’t something you want to cite in your english paper. Also, if the ads are at all sketchy (e.g. How to Lose 10 lbs in One Week), it is not a well-made site.
• What’s the date?
This is one of the biggest issues I see come across my feed. Articles may be perfectly credible and true, but it has been 3 years since it happened. Why does this count as fake news, you may ask? Because many people will share the post solely because of the headline, thinking it was a recent occurrence. Other people will then see it and think the same. Therefore, late news is now also considered fake news.
• What are the article titles like?
If the titles of the articles are completely outlandish, you’ve probably stumbled upon fake news. Fake news sites thrive on click-bait articles. And what is the first part you see on your Facebook feed? The title.
• Who are the authors?
If the site displays authors, click on their names and check out their credentials. All credible news organizations should have reputable authors. If there are no authors listed, that is another bad sign.
• Is this biased?
If you saw your great aunt Betty posting a news article titled, “It is true, Obama is in ISIS,” you should probably call fake news. Likewise, you should be suspicious if a left-leaning organization posts something too extreme. I’ve said it before, and I’ve said it again: good journalism remains unbiased!
• Click the articles
This is not a question, but it still a crucial part of the process. You should never share an article before you read it. Moreover, you should never share an article based on its headline only.
Take in the article collectively, and if you think that it is worthy of being on your page, then you can share. You should always be aware of what information you’re spreading!
I’m sure there are loads and loads of other ways to spot fake news, but these are a couple of questions I have found particularly helpful.
From now on, challenge yourself to think like a journalist. It is up to us to post informed, accurate information, and sites like the HuffPost are clouding our judgement. When it comes to social media, be a critical thinker.