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News consumers must change mentality

The dangers of fake news are becoming even more apparent during a digital age.

Photo via Google under Creative Commons license

The dangers of fake news are becoming even more apparent during a digital age.

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With an overwhelming number of teenagers and young adults alike now consuming most of their information through social media, the legitimacy of articles that are posted on these media platforms are proving to be increasingly misleading.

Some articles are now being written for the sole purpose of gaining money and nothing else. The new climate of digital news has allowed for this mentality because the traffic driven to the website now directly correlates to the amount of money ads will pay.

Thus, new websites are sprouting to become profitable by writing stories that they know will lead to people to click them rather than for the general public to gain knowledge while having journalistic integrity.

The term used for such stories is “fake news,” but this term has been thrown around so much the actual term is losing its authenticity. Fake news is a story that is created strictly to drive traffic to its website with no regard for the truth.

“News, like any other source of media, is interpreted in whatever way the public chooses to interpret it. The difference is fake news isn’t even news,” senior Samuel Peterson said.

Fake news is not new, but the current environment has changed. The political climate, especially during the election, encourages stories to surface that appeal to a reader because of what is said positively about the candidate they like or what is said negatively about the candidate they don’t.

Recent examples of fake news include the story of the Pope endorsing Donald Trump when in fact no such event happened. Yet this story gained so much traffic, it was a top news story on platforms such as Facebook.

Another fake news story seemed so real that Trump’s son actually tweeted a link to it endorsing the story when in fact it was completely made up. Due to the positive light the story spun on his father, it seems he disregarded checking the legitimacy of the story.

The mentality that promotes fake news is almost identical to the thinking that many surveys have been under fire for in completely making up surveys and people then choosing a survey to believe that satisfies them.

The thinking ultimately is readers picking and choosing what things they read and what to then believe based on what they agree with rather than what is fact or fiction.

“The people who take all stories at face value….are the close-minded people who choose to shelter themselves from something that opposes them…rather than openly discuss conflicting interests,” Peterson said.

Neither side, Democrats or Republicans, are blamed for this problem arising. The problem arose because of readers choosing to believe things they wanted to hear. Both sides have developed stories that are fake and extremely damaging to each candidate.

The appropriation of this term has been the most startling outcome of this ordeal.
Since the discovery of fake news, the term itself is being falsified, much like the stories that the term is trying to condemn. Most recently, Trump tweeted about a story that had surfaced about a document, that has negative connections to the President and Trump claimed through twitter, “crooked opponents try to belittle our victory with FAKE NEWS.”

Instead of the President letting the news outlets vet the story and try to uncover the truth Trump has called it altogether, “fake news,” when in reality the news outlets are simply releasing a document to the public that has been circulating, not making up a fake document that would thereby make it fake news.

With the appropriation of this term coming straight from the President, it’s a startling admission and one that could have consequences.

Trump’s disdain for the press is apparent, but to indicate a whole news media website as a proprietor of fake news, like he has claimed about CNN and now BuzzFeed because the news website publishes something that does not put someone in a positive light about himself, is frightening.

Trump is essentially trying to craft an image of himself that he is has no  control of. By dismantling the credibility of news outlets and by promoting himself as a form of news through the social media platform Twitter. The press’s job is to work as detectives. They publish stories they deem as newsworthy, credible for the public to consume to help craft their opinion about the world and current affairs.

The removal of a second party, such as the press, then leads to a single person dictating what they believe the general public should know and that could easily lead them to leave out stories that would have a negative impact on them.

News organizations are needed more than ever. News organizations now have the added task to not only report news but to call out falsities and to uncover fact from fiction.

CNN has already dismantled a tweet Trump wrote complaining about websites hiding the FBI criminal investigation of Clinton in which it states that in fact it was at the top of Facebook, Google and a featured story on Twitter’s “memories.”

“The news stations are separated by political parties, with each side calling the other liars,” Peterson said. “In the end, the only media outlets you will trust will be the ones you like.”

This is the current mentality of most viewers and the current mentality most people have, to listen to things they like to hear and regard things they vehemently disagree with as false, even though it could have an insurmountable amount of proof.

An overhaul on how people think is in order. Somewhere along the line, the public has been programmed to become  stubborn and to ignore half the news that is circulating. The term fake news is an added outlet for people to fall prey upon in this thinking leading to an even more closed-minded society.

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News consumers must change mentality