FALL EDITORIAL BOARD 2016
One of the latest developments dominating headlines is the recent proliferation of fake news.
Throughout Facebook timelines and Twitter feeds, fake news has reached millions of people itching to taste their preferred flavor of politics.
Fake news provides exactly that – in the form of sensationalistic and false news stories often depicting a political party, idea or person in an unpleasant light.
False articles claiming President Obama is banning the national anthem, Elizabeth Warren endorsed Bernie Sanders and Sweden banning Christmas lights to prevent angering Muslims have been swapped around and gobbled up.
Fake news companies are able to take advantage of people’s natural intolerance and disenchantment toward the “other,” or in this case, opposing political parties, ideas or people.
The more sensationalistic the fake news, the more visits its host websites get, the more ad revenue is generated for their owners.
The issue of fake news has developed such a gravity that two of the biggest internet companies, Facebook and Google, have been forced to attack fake news by targeting its ability to carry ads.
According to Pew Research Center, 62 percent of American adults get news on social media, which shows how potentially damaging fake news can be.
Oftentimes, these stories contain words which trigger powerful emotions in readers and contain images which may provoke readers.
The stories elicit strong emotional reactions from readers and feed into our personal echo chambers, cementing our personal versions of the truth.
This year has provided an environment conducive to the growth of such a cancer.
Ridiculing the “lamestream media” has become a politically expedient tool for deceitful politicians to use.
Delegitimizing the media helps prevent these politicians from being held accountable to their failures and inconsistencies, hence to myriad of issues which bounced off of Donald Trump throughout his campaign.
As the media is delegitimized, fake news fills the vacuum.
It’s important to note, though, that skepticism toward all media sources, especially mainstream ones, is healthy and necessary.
But there is an optimal level of skepticism which lends readers a more objective outlook on the news without being mired in complete cynisism.
Both of the extreme outlooks on media, deep cynicism and unwavering faith, are undesirable.
The former creates a post-truth atmosphere where truth and lies are interchangeable and the latter creates a mob of submissive and unthinking citizens.
We implore people to be discerning on the internet.
Too often, articles are shared without being read, let alone its sources being checked. Too often, headlines are read which confirm the reader’s worldview and are subsequently shared all across social media without any sort of vetting.
We must escape the habit of bolstering our egos at the cost of letting fake news slip by us.
But that isn’t to say we stop sharing news which may carry a political bias.
The distinction between news sources which lean in one way politically and news which is demonstrably false is incredibly important.
Conservative-leaning sources like the Wall Street Journal and The Federalist along with liberal-leaning sources like MSNBC and The Huffington Post are reliable sources of news.
Despite any bias stories from these sources may or may not have, they have been shown to be reliable with respect to sending out accurate reports.
We all need to check the authenticity of the news we absorb, and we must pay special scrutiny to news that feeds into our specific worldview.
In doing this, the media, including The Plainsman, will be held more accountable to its readers and misinformation won’t have such an easy market to thrive in.