Always Check the Facts Before You Share the Story

With the increase of "fake news" and revival of "yellow journalism," it is important to check the facts before you decide to share a story even if you are leaning towards it as a possible truth.  Spreading distortions,  libelous stories, and downright lies is irresponsible behavior.  Even if you know the story is satire, you need to make that distinction before you hit the "share" or "retweet' button in order to not mislead other readers.  Not everyone understands sarcasm and therefore they might retaliate.  Going viral is NOT worth the harm it can do to yours or another's reputation.

So how do you check the facts?  In the past, we could rely on journalistic ethics and real research to check the facts and verify statistics.. However the desire to sell stories has changed the media from presenting impartial facts to generating sensationalism and repeating social media to not get scooped on a story.  As proof of this, we were incredulous when TV news shows added a Twitter feed or Facebook trends to their news hour.  Of course they had to spend time saying what was true, false, or unproven.  Doing so took away from "real news," weather, and sports because there was no guarantee people stayed tuned for that last part of social media reports.  So some reputable networks have finally discontinued that ridiculous source of news.  Forbes Survey Of Journalists Suggests Accuracy Is More Important Than Being First shows discontinuing that was the right thing to do.

Formerly, the daily newspapers provided details we did not get from TV reports.  However, many print newspapers have gone on-line and have to compete with other web sources to get your attention.  Therefore, they may provide sensational headlines to get attention before presenting the details.  Unfortunately many people are lazy about getting all the news and only read the headline plus the first paragraph or two.  So they do not get the full picture or miss where something was fully presented or falsehoods disputed.   Hopefully, if you want the full story, you check multiple sources to be sure.  According to Business Insider chart, these were the most and least trusted news outlets.

One source historically considered impartial in finding the facts was  Then Forbes magazine told us that we cannot trust them in the article Fact Checking the Fact Checkers.  In the past, many of us used that site for finding out if a story was true or false.  After reading they considered a a skewed story on their site as TRUE after reviewing the full video (story supposedly based on a few  minutes near middle of the hour) and written transcript portion that they said proved the story, I saw a definite misconstruing and misinterpretation of what was said to support a falsehood.  What the story quoted the presenters as saying was never actually said.  For anyone who understands English, the result of fact checking should have been FALSE.  Or they could have at least responded MIXED and said a slip-of-the-tongue seemed to be misunderstood by people not listening closely or reporters were choosing to take a statement completely out-of-context.  Other popular (supposedly non-partisan)  fact-checking sites include:  AllSidesPolitiFactMediaBiasFactCheck, and NewsGuard. So now, not only do you have to double-check the facts of the story, you must verify the accuracy of the fact checkers!

Has journalism moved from being an extension of the English department to under Political Science or Marketing?  Is sensationalism more important than communication of the facts?  It is shame that you have to be distrustful of your news sources in order to be a responsible person and citizen.   Please do not accidentally or purposefully spread lies.  Remember always check the facts and/or statistics before you share a story! As much as possible, you want to be right so you are not shown to be wrong in the future.  You also want to be honest, which:  shows integrity, gains respect, and builds trust.

For more reasons to research for bias, see Harvard Business Review long article "Why the News Is Not the Truth."


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