Popularized by the 45th President of the United States Donald Trump, during and after his presidential campaign, “fake news” is used to question the legitimacy of a news story. In theory, fake news has been a sour part media's history, since its inception. Like a game of Telephone, key facts to a story can get lost in translation, misinterpreted, and misconstrued. Other times, fake news is published to sell stories, garner website clicks (sensationalism sells), and rile up consumers. In any case, it is up to the messenger (journalist, news anchor, or storyteller) to ethically publish exposés and news. However, with a lack of journalistic integrity, tabloids and gossip are popularized.
In 1998 Spanish- American War, also known as the “media war” stirred up quite a feud between American newspaper publishers, William Hearst and Jospeh Pulitzer. A result of the competition gave rise to yellow journalism (sensational journalism that isn’t often factual reporting) to sensationalize and claim media dominance over the war.
With the 2016 presidential campaign, yellow journalism and fake news ran rampant with inflammatory headlines, trying to persuade voters on who might be the best fit as POTUS. These polarized fake news articles had a detrimental effect on our democracy, and as a result, the United States is more divided than ever. Take 2016’s “pizzagate” for example. Fake news was published on Wikileaks (an open-source and collaborative publishing website) detailing a proposed possible fundraiser in support of Democrat Presidential candidate, Hilary Clinton, and the proposed venue for this alleged fundraiser was a D.C. pizzeria that allegedly doubled as a front for a sex trafficking sting. This fake news leak inspired a 28-year-old North Carolina man, to walk into the pizzeria and fire shots from an assault rifle. Thankfully there were no fatalities. However, this event displayed the looming threats and consequences of fake news.
With digital convergence it is easy for any Jane/Joe to publish media, take me and this blog for instance. So how might a consumer discern fake from real news? My advice is to become media literate by analyzing and evaluating media and always , always, always, do your googles!