Spotting fake news
It is the time of year when we at least try to have a greater perspective on our world and what we have to be thankful for.
But it can be hard in our world today, with the clear evidence of hatred for certain groups – minorities, of course – and our continued inability to treat all people equally.
Some folks can’t even agree on whether all votes cast in an election should be counted and hurl around charges of voter fraud even when there is no evidence of it. Saying you were defrauded out of your victory is, after all, admitting that you just plain lost.
And recounts? Even our president wanted to stop the Florida recount as if counting most of the ballots was good enough. But what happened in Arizona was clear evidence that all votes must be counted – or recounted – because there, what appeared to be a Republican victory in the U.S. Senate race, turned in favor of the Democrat after a recount.
Why wouldn’t everyone want all votes counted?
Clearly, though, as New Hampshire and our towns here prepare for an impending invasion by presidential hopefuls, we need to be clear on our belief in democracy, on the sanctity of the ballot, on the fairness of the process. But that’s hard when politicians – including this nation’s leader, if you will – continually attack the fairness of the process, clearly hoping to make illegitimate any loss they might suffer.
This goes hand in hand with the strident, fake claims of “fake news” that eminnate from the White House and especially from the lips of the president and his spokeswoman, Sarah Sanders, who seem to believe that repeating nonsense often enough will convince people that a lie is the truth.
There is certainly fake news. It can be found on certain Internet sites not in the pages of your local newspapers nor in the major metropolitan dailies like the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal or the Boston Globe, The Telegraph, the Union Leader or the Miami Herald or any other paper where real reporters and editors work.
Some, of course, will argue that there have been instances where reporters lied in print and editors let it go through and that is so, but those examples – Jayson Blair and Stephen Glass leap to mind – are so few and far between as to be useless as examples of anything sinister.
Cries of “fake news” are meant to frighten you, to make you distrust journalism that 99.9 percent of the time is completely trustworthy. We all make mistakes, of course, but unlike the liars that can be found on the Internet, we own up to them and we apologize and we try like heck not to make another. We are fallible, but we are not fakers.
Here, though, are some tips on how to spot fake news, the kind so many Internet junkies love to believe because it fits in with their preconceptions:
1. Consider the source, then investigate the site even though you have to use the Internet to do it.
2. Don’t get hung up on the headlines. Read the story and not just the first paragraph. Read down into it to make sure it all makes sense and that it isn’t simply one-sided.
3. Do a search on the author of the story. Who is this person? Where does he or she really work?
4. Double check the information reported as fact. If something doesn’t seem right to you, keep looking.
But the most important thing to believe is that we – reporters and editors – take great pride in getting it right and feel horrible when we get something wrong. We can’t wait to see that correction run.
This is especially important now as the candidate horde gets ready to descend. Trust what we tell you about them, trust what we say they said and believe – believe! – that any opinions we hold about them, good or bad, will be relegated to the editorial pages, not to our news stories.
The real fake news is White House tripe about fake news.