Sunday, January 1, 2017

Fake News is here to stay! Read all about it!

Florida Times-Union building
Wikimedia Commons
This is the unedited version of a letter to the editor that appeared in the Florida Times-Union on January 1, 2017. I have to admit, I still get a little bang out of picking up the newspaper at the end of my driveway and seeing something I wrote in there. 

Fake news isn’t going away. The folks who consume it just love the stuff! More importantly, producers of fake news and advertisers alike are making money from it.

Fake news producers cater to people who believe what they want to believe, meaning most people. When presented with a story that precisely fits a person’s belief system, he or she tends to believe it.

Still, there are some people who prefer not to be fooled. A great deal of the fake news going around is satire. Recognizing satirical fake news isn’t hard.  If a story is from The Onion or The Daily Currant, it’s certainly fake and potentially very funny.  

For stories from elsewhere that seem outrageous or unlikely, clicking through to the websites where they first appeared can be revealing. If the About page mentions satire and/or entertainment, the stories are probably all fake.

If the names of the reporters or the characters in the stories seem like made up names, they probably are. For example, in my fake news posts about fake news, I sometimes quote Jack O’Lanterni, President of Fake News International. 

The biggest key to not being fooled by fake news is to set aside biases and ask yourself whether a story is likely to be true, regardless of how much you might like it to be true.

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