What is Fake News & Why Should You Care?

    The promotion of the latest meeting of the PRSA Hampton Roads Chapter read like a click-bait ad on Facebook: Lies, Fake News & Alternative Facts. Unfortunately, the world where these demons live is the media world in which we as public relations professionals currently reside. So, how do we deliver actual facts to our publics? 

    According to a recent Buzzfeed study conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs, fake news headlines fool American adults about 75% of the time. Alas, that is why you should care! 

    To test the media IQ of attendees, the recent panel discussion began with a quick quiz asking audience members and panelists to identify news stories as real or fake.The pros passed the test.

    As the panel discussion began, one question garnered a mixed response from panelists and attendees: What exactly is fake news? That led to more questions. How is it defined? Does fake news include actual falsehoods or is it factual data that has been distorted? Is fake news simply something with which the reader disagrees? Panelists agreed that fake news has been around for a while in the forms of satire and parody. The fake news of today has moved to a different level.

    So, what do we do? How do the media and public relations professionals keep truth in the news?

    • First, we can educate our publics (and friends and family … come on, you know you have that one family member on Facebook) to take the extra click and do more than just read and share the headline. Dig deeper, read the whole story and realize you’ve been baited. Remember, tweets are headlines, not stories. 
    • Next, encourage readers to curate their social media feeds with credible new sites. Follow trusted media entities and share their stories.
    • Don’t place all the blame on the media. There’s a reason that there are three sources of information for a story. Media entities don’t want to provide alternative facts any more than you want to read them. Is the media perfect? No, and their teams are shrinking. But, they have no reason to report fake news.
    • Combat fake news when you see it. The next time your aunt shares a fake news story, comment and correct.
    • Finally, be open. Readers curate information based on their own perspectives. Be open to reading different point of view. Do your research and help develop a public filled with discerning consumers.

    For more information on fake news and what you can do, check out these resources:

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