Education

Ten Ways Not to Get Tricked by Fake News Before the Election or Anytime

Ten Ways Not to Get Tricked by Fake News Before the Election or Anytime
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With just days to go before Election Day, November 6, airwaves and social-media feeds are overflowing with political content of varying degrees of quality and accuracy. No wonder so many of us get frustrated trying to tell the good and the true from the bad and the bogus.

Fortunately, Elizabeth Skewes is here to help. As the journalism chairwoman at the University of Colorado Boulder and author of Message Control: How News Is Made on the Presidential Campaign Trail, she studies the media on a daily basis. It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it.

Skewes recently shared with us ten tips designed to help folks tell the difference between real fake news and fake fake news, as well as to become better, smarter consumers of news and information in general.

It's advice that definitely doesn't expire after the votes are counted. But a certain President of the United States does get name-checked a time or two.


Number 1: Burst Your Own Media Bubble

"One of the first things I tell people is that it's really important to read from a broad variety of news outlets. I think we get too stuck in our own filter. If you are coming at things from a perspective more on the left, take a look at Fox News occasionally, because that perspective is important. On the other hand, if you're a die-hard Fox News or Breitbart fan, look at MSNBC and CNN every so often.

"Remember, if you see something online and it's only from one news source, it's possible it's an exclusive — but it's also possible it's wrong. Look for consensus on what we know and look for where news organizations may be speculating. And try to be aware of what we think is not as solid and what we have evidence for. That's one area the public can take some responsibility."

Number 2: Know Which Way You Tilt

"We need to be aware of what we bring from our own biases. Years ago, there was a study called 'Biased Press or Biased Public?,' where the researchers had Republicans and Democrats read the same news story and then asked them questions about it. The Republicans said the story was biased against them and in favor of Democrats, and Democrats said it was biased against them and in favor of Republicans. So we need to understand that we view things through our own lens — and we have to be sure that when we read something, we don't dismiss it if it doesn't fit our worldview."
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts