At 10 a.m. today on the west steps of the Colorado State Capitol, Jason Salzman, the former Rocky Mountain News media critic who currently runs the website BigMedia.org, is calling on lawmakers in the state to sign a "Fake News Pledge," described as "a promise not to knowingly spread fake news on social media."
What is fake news? Even media professionals such as 9News anchor Adele Arakawa, who attacked a story that prompted her retirement announcement as fake news when it didn't actually fit the definition, seem unclear, and that's understandable. Satirical articles of the sort popularized by The Onion have morphed into bogus tales that aren't necessarily jokes. Indeed, some observers see fake news attacks on Hillary Clinton (including one that claimed she was behind a child-sex ring) as having benefited Donald Trump in his successful 2016 presidential campaign.
To help you identify fake news, we've collected ten stories about Colorado from National Report, a purveyor of such fare spotlighted by National Public Radio in a recent examination of the issue. As you'll see, most of them begin with a germ of truth before expanding beyond the facts — occasionally for humorous reasons, other times in an effort to score ideological points by fooling readers who mistake them for the truth.
In some ways, fake news recalls the comment the late Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart made about pornography: We know it when we see it. If you have any doubt about accuracy, however, first consider the source — and if the story comes from an unknown site, there's a good chance it's bogus. Next, do a quick online search to see if anyone else is reporting the same thing, as differentiated from rip-off sites that are republishing the material either with or without authorization. If there's only a single source, there are plenty of reasons to doubt it. Finally, employ good old common sense. If what you're reading seems unbelievable, don't simply believe it.
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Try out your bullshit detector on the ten National Report stories about Colorado below.