Wick Communications

Worried about ‘fake news?’

In journalism, Uncategorized on November 17, 2016 at 4:46 pm

Perhaps the hottest topic in our industry is “fake news.” You know what it is because you probably see it in your Facebook feed or Google search all day long. Hillary Clinton promised amnesty for undocumented immigrants who voted for her. World War III is days away. John Podesta is a witch.

Most of these things are pretty obviously not true. The trouble comes when you are in your own echo chamber and what you read generally confirms what you want to believe. Then discerning the difference can be a matter of will.

A lot of smart people think this is a big, big problem for real journalists. Is real journalism devalued when it comes amid so much fakery? If people can’t tell the difference, will they just choose to believe what they want to believe?

Jack Shafer says no. He’s a well-known media critic who notes that there is nothing new about fake news. Politicians and their minions have been faking stories about the opposition for as long as there has been ink and paper.

That is true, but I tend to believe there is something more pernicious happening today. I think it has to do with the viral nature of media now. Shafer points out 18th century hoaxes about man-eating trees and monkeys trained to pick cotton, but those stories weren’t shared millions of times in an hour. They didn’t take on a life of their own. …

You might have seen that Google and Facebook have announced plans to purge fake news from their delivery systems. We’ll see how that works. There will always be a market for what we want to hear and at a time when shares and likes are the currency at hand, there will be incentive to deceive.

Clay

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