Between Facebook and the Internet, the 24-hour-a-day news cycle, traditional media outlets, competing political organizations with competing agendas –– fake news is thriving.
Democracy, not so much.
“I do not know how a democracy functions when you don’t know what information sources you can trust,” says Paul Gullifor, the Henry Means Pindell Endowed Chair in Communication at Bradley University.
Still, some traditional advice applies, perhaps more than ever.
- Evaluate your sources of news. Where does this information come from? Do you recognize the author? Do you recognize the website? Cons are adept mimics, but washingtonposts.com is not the same as washingtonpost.com.
- Look for multiple sources. Don’t just visit websites that confirm what you already think. Be open to opposing points of view. Retain a healthy skepticism of conventional news sources, but realize that organizations such as CNN and The New York Times at least attempt to adhere to ethical standards. Theoretically, liberals could watch Fox News and conservatives might sample MSNBC.
- Realize that sorting and evaluating information takes time and effort. With facts at our fingertips, we ought to be the most-informed society ever. But Gullifor notes there is someone on the other end of your smartphone with his or her own agenda. Keeping you distracted makes big money. It also makes it harder to sift through the dross.
“We used to rely on journalists to do that,” Gullifor says.