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Tales vs. Truth

by Staff Editorial

Weapons used in the war against "fake news"

Mon, Feb 20th 2017 10:25 pm
Elizabeth Pritchard/EDITORIAL CARTOONIST

The people of the United States aren't trusting the media in a time where it is the only thing watchdogging our government. People need to have faith in the news and take responsibility in actively seeking out sources and facts that are accurate.
Elizabeth Pritchard/EDITORIAL CARTOONIST The people of the United States aren't trusting the media in a time where it is the only thing watchdogging our government. People need to have faith in the news and take responsibility in actively seeking out sources and facts that are accurate.

 The media is a watchdog for the government, meaning that we keep it in check by reporting its every move. Similarly, the reader is a watchdog for the media. It's the audience's job to make sure the facts it's getting are accurate and as objective as possible. Schools, unfortunately, don't teach media literacy as much as they should so individuals are on their own in the war against fake news. It's just a matter of knowing where to properly search when looking for true journalistic values and morals. And just to be clear, the average reader's aim nowadays sucks. 

However, we here at The Stylus believe in giving A's for effort and that improvement matters. So, here's how to avoid fake news for beginners.

Know your facts. This includes the information you already know. Don't let media outlets insult your intelligence by contradicting what should not only be common knowledge, but undisputable fact. That's how bizarre claims like, "the Holocaust never happened" and "racism isn't real" are born. The Holocaust did happen, racism is real and the media source that told you it didn't and isn't is most likely trying to pull you to the dark side. Focus, friends.

Now, I know what you're thinking. More complex issues might not fall into the average reader's common knowledge so you would have to seek out a news source for more information, and you should. 

Trust the real journalist. It's a storyteller's duty to report issues framed into a context that the reader can understand and create a story in which an individual can draw conclusions and opinions for themselves. 

It's nearly impossible for a writer to be 100 percent objective when reporting but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't try. Yes, we've got opinions and feelings and want to be heard as well, but it's not in our job description to include an agenda along with every article. Objectivity and truthfulness can be accomplished. 

Unfortunately, the media giants that most people flock to for their news aren't great examples of this. Right-leaning conspiracy site Breitbart and die-hard liberal outlet MSNBC are notorious for this. Others that miss the mark are CNN and Fox News. You probably know where both fall on the color scheme in terms of objectivity. 

Fact: Selective exposure is real. People tend to favor information that reinforces their pre-existing views while avoiding information that opposes them. 

At the end of the day, there's only one way to fight the urge to flock to your home-away-from-home news site.

Diversify your sources. Do you know what happens when you consistently visit the same, biased news source? You take in a momentous amount of information diluted by opinion, agenda-setting and falsity. Less eloquently put, you end up spouting nonsense that sounds a lot similar to what comes out of President Donald Trump's mouth. And no one wants to sound like him.

How not to sound like Trump. This one's important! Trump is spreading great amounts of distrust in the media but he himself does not understand how media works. So he says the news is fake and dishonest. OK, let's look at how someone who knows so much about journalism fares in his own reporting. Keep in mind this is the President of the United States.

Early in a press conference held on February 16, Trump boasted that he received 306 electoral votes.

"I guess it was the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan," Trump said. "In other words ... the media is trying to attack our administration."

When a reporter corrected him and informed him that Barack Obama got 365, Trump defended himself saying he was talking about Republican presidents. The reporter continued, saying George H.W. Bush got 426 and asked why Americans should trust him. 

Listener/Viewer/Readership. 

Earlier, it was mentioned that while the media checks the government and media illiterates like Trump, it's up to audiences to control the information released by writers. We need you guys to call out fake news outlets like Breitbart and Huffington Post because in the end, it's all about the readers. Write letters to the editors, ask "what is the context?" when you run across an issue you don't understand, make them present the facts and call them out on their BS.

 "I've never seen more dishonest media than the political media," Trump said.

Throughout the press conference, Trump insulted reporters and organizations, talked about cracking down on news leaks, interrupted reporters, and said "fake" in relation to news organizations approximately 18 times.

However, Trump did present some solutions for the media. He wants the media to call him for stories they write about him. He demonstrated exactly why this would not work in the press conference by showing reporters what they would get in an interview with him: boasting, patronizing rants and insults.

Where would the world stand if the government began controlling the media instead of the other way around? This is how dictatorships are formed.

With a number of social media platforms at our fingertips and a variety of media to make do of, we're all storytellers, including our President.

But there's a difference between fiction and nonfiction  — a distinction between tales and truth. Real journalists embody the latter and there's nothing dishonest about that.

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