Fake news! It’s everywhere. Who do you believe? These days so many people get their news online. That’s not necessarily bad. There are many good, legitimate resources online. But these days anyone can easily get into the news business. Publishing no longer requires big money for printing presses and the people to run them.
The rise of the internet, and its low-cost of publishing, has severely damaged the news institutions we used to rely upon for information. The morning newspaper is hanging on by its fingernails. Television news takes its lead from Facebook with cat videos and other nonsense they call news. All of these sources have severely cut their news departments.
Sometimes, it seems like what we used to call news has become a propaganda machine, not a source for facts. So many people are conditioned to trust what they read. They don’t verify it, they just accept it and pass it on. It was bad enough when those fake news sources were just click-bait, intending to draw you in to see pages of ads. Lately, we’ve been hearing about fake news of the worst kind; stories created by foreign agents that create discontent and distrust.
How do we tell the difference between legit and fake news?
First, look for independent verification. If it is true and a fact, someone else will be reporting the story. Google search and find out what others are saying. Don’t trust it if you can’t find verification.
Second, carefully examine the language in the story. If someone is telling you what to think instead of reporting facts, watch out! Listen for opinion words; like clearly, obviously, I think, I believe, the best, unfair, terrible, never, great, awful, inferior, superior. Words like these are feelings, not facts. They are a strong indicator that someone is trying to sway you instead of providing information.
By watching out for opinion words, and looking for independent verification, you can avoid being pulled in to believing a fake news story.
About the Author
Len Wilcox is a retired scientist who also ran a newspaper and has written for agricultural publications since the 1980s. He was a regular contributor to California Farmer Magazine. His commentary “The Western View” is a regular feature on Farm City Newsday and AgNet West.