How fake is fake news really?

Ella Gage, Opinion Editor

The Press Perspective is an editorial written to express the opinions of all editors and staff writers on the Patriot Press. Each issue the staff comes together to discuss a topic and share their opinions, which later get compiled into the Press Perspective.

2020 is a year of mixed signals and polarization. There is a Twilight Zone-like atmosphere of mistrust and opposition, mixed messages being sent from our leaders, international threats, and questionable information. Most of this distrust stems back not only to our politicians, but to our news sources. 

It all starts with the term “fake news.” An iconic term coined by Donald Trump that encompasses virtually any negative press about him, “fake news” has wreaked havoc throughout American media over the past four years, as well as American trust in their sources of information. 

With easy access to social media comes an oversaturation of information on current events, and naturally, not all of this information is true. How should students find reliable information? Is any information truly reliable? The answers to these questions lead back to the source, literally and figuratively. 

“The vast majority of people don’t follow NPR or other news sources on Twitter. Only the niche of people who are already inclined to be interested in news follow reputable sources on social media. Many others rely on less reputable sources or reposts shared by others,” senior Raquel Rossi said. 

For many people, NPR or New York Times provide too much information; people want their information in bite-sized pieces. Teenagers want to make sense of the constant turmoil of politics and current events they’re seeing on social media feeds. Unfortunately, when it comes down to where it’s easiest to find this information, the news source is most likely TikTok videos, Snapchat For You pages, Instagram articles, Youtube videos, and so on . . . not exactly a New York Times or BBC type-beat. 

“I think it’s really easy to believe what you see on social media or just move past it when it doesn’t agree with what you already think. There’s very little growth that comes with just information that comes from social media, so people need to look at the news too,” junior Olivia Briggs said. 

There is truth to this: people have a natural, sometimes subconscious, confirmation bias, a natural leaning towards accepting information that confirms one’s beliefs and ignores the information that says otherwise. Our brain chemistry makes it hard for people to truly be open-minded, especially on issues they have a preconceived opinion on. So how much does this subconscious bias affect how we perceive news? 

“Although there is some fake news, there are also a lot of good journalists, and the facts remain facts, even if they are slanted. Demonizing an entire group (for example, left versus right) is a danger to education and to civil information,” sophomore Amira Turner said. 

The whole purpose of news is to provide a reliable source of information, especially when the government is trying to misinform the people. In a way, the decades-old government versus news battle is the source of this turmoil today, but this time, it’s not just the government that’s mistrusted by the citizens: news is mistrusted as well.

The thing is, not all news is unreliable, and to say so would be disrespecting the entire profession of journalism. Yes, some news exists for the purpose of entertainment, and much news is purposefully slanted, but in reality, the facts and quotes remain factual. It is a moral obligation of the journalists, interviewers, writers, and newscasters to provide accurate information. Sure, the press is constantly demonized for some reason or another, but when it comes down to it, people pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for an expensive education dedicated to teaching individuals how to write in factual, meaningful ways that present the truth to the public. CNN, for example, is a liberal news source, but that doesn’t make the information wrong; it just makes it slanted by reporting true stories through a liberal lens. Same with Fox, but with a conservative slant. 

“An individual component shouldn’t be representative of an entire medium,” sophomore Sofia Kovalenko said. The individual component of slant absolutely should not be representative of the entire medium of journalism. That’s just unreasonable, but that’s not to say slanting facts and bias (purposeful or not) is an issue. So how can students find their way through conflicting information?

First of all, social media is not a source of news. It’s social networking, not a factual database or a forum for complete, unbiased stories. Find reputable sources like NPR, BBC, USA Today, or the New York Times. These are critically acclaimed and highly reliable sources that have been around for a long time and can be trusted to present both sides of issues. This is the real information and true journalism, held to the highest standard, rather than angry Instagram posts that provoke hate and divide by stooping to the lowest standard possible in the media community. 

There is room for the media to do better at portraying both sides and ensuring accurate information, but there is even more room for people our age to do a better job staying informed.