Posted at 1 p.m. April 5, 2017
The poisoned wellspring of knowledge
Finding truth in media during age of fake news
Illustration by Floyd Whiting and
The current American political climate has brought many once trusted news outlets into question. Terms like “fake news” get used loosely. Authority figures simply referring to news entities can change opinions on them. Many people have a hard time deciding what is real news or they lack the skills and knowledge to determine whether something is factual or not.
The Internet has exacerbated these issues. There are literally thousands of websites that claim to be news sites. Since so many news and political commentary sites have populated the Internet, it can be hard to determine what is true and what isn’t. Consumers should get their news from more than one place and remain skeptical.
Cheyenne City Councilman Richard Johnson said he believes that when sensationalism is addressed by authority figures, it can instantly give more or less credibility to a subject.
“If President Trump did go out and say these web sites are fake news, it gives them credibility. Your site
will probably crash from traffic if the president mentions you,” Johnson said. “By saying you’re not a credible news organization, he just gave you attention by mentioning your name. If he says something like that, half the country is going to try to find out if it’s true and the other half is going to try to figure out if it’s false.”
Johnson also mentioned the fact that some people are going to find the things they want to online, no matter what.
Johnson also said that sensational news sells itself.
“You have to have that zinger of a catch phrase,” Johnson said. “If I were the person running a news agency I would do my best to get on the Presidents’ radar to have him mention me. Sensational or not.”
Joel Funk, Wyoming Tribune Eagle government reporter, had a different opinion.
“Trust no one source,” Funk said. “Attempt to corroborate information you find important or mind-blowing with other sources. Be responsible enough to look into whether that information has legitimacy or it’s meant to incite unrest.”
Funk heavily emphasized using multiple sources. “What I would hope is that people don’t start leaning on sources that pose themselves as the alternate source,” Funk said. “And trust them without a sense of healthy skepticism.”
But it isn’t all doom and gloom. There are many trust worthy resources.
According to the Pew Research Center, though most Americans get their news from local sources, the most trusted large news sources in America are British. The Economist and the BBC top the list.
The Economist is a weekly print magazine but it is also an online news source. The homepage covers the editors’ news choices and important national news while individual countries and topics are accessible through drop-down tabs. The Economist covers important news from all over the world, has a solid reputation for being well researched, well reported, mostly unbiased and it rarely shows up on the fact-checking websites’ naughty lists.
The BBC is another British news company that has a similar website to The Economist. Minute-to-minute and breaking news headlines the homepage while drop-down menus are used for categories like regions, technology, sports and weather. The BBC is also trustworthy, mostly unbiased and does well on the fact-checking sites, according to Pew research.
Elizabeth Holloway is a former Cheyenne resident and the production manager for PeaceJam.org, a Nobel Prize-nominated documentary house. She has an interesting take on the mainstream media and the alternatives.
While the previously discussed entities present the news in a fair manner, there are many organizations that do not. InfoWars is a far right fake news and conspiracy theory resource that sprinkles in real reporting to confuse the viewer. The owner of InfoWars, Alex Jones, is a noted conspiracy theorist who says he believes the global elite are planning on enslaving and murdering all the common people in the world.
“I liked Alex Jones better when he was the 9-11 inside job guy, now he’s a bona fide crazy,” Holloway said.
For entertainment purposes InfoWars is great but they should not be treated as a reliable news outlet.
The Young Turks is a far left-leaning alternative news website, YouTube Channel and YouTube network. It is partnered with Al Jazeera Plus, a branch of Al Jazeera English.
Holloway enjoys TYT for entertainment purposes. “I really like The Young Turks for entertainment” Holloway said. “Election night was hilarious to watch on there. You could literally see the host having a mental breakdown.”
She was referring to Cenk Uygur, the owner of TYT that hails from Turkey. Not only did he name his organization after the group that committed the Armenian Genocide, he also openly denies the genocide ever happened. The bias is very strong, Holloway said.
The modern media landscape can be tough to navigate. It is easy to be misled and many groups claiming to be news purposely deceive the public but through proper sourcing and fact checking everyone can determine the good and the bad.