The problem is not new. What we call fake news now was once called yellow journalism, a term for journalism that presents little or no legitimate, well-researched news while instead using eye-catching headlines for increased sales. Techniques may include exaggerations of news events, scandal-mongering, or sensationalism. The term was coined in the mid-1890s to characterize the sensational journalism in the circulation war between Joseph Pulitzer’s New York World and William Randolph Hearst’s New York Journal.
Frank Luther Mott identifies yellow journalism based on five characteristics:
1. scare headlines in huge print, often of minor news
2. lavish use of pictures, or imaginary drawings
3. use of faked interviews, misleading headlines, pseudoscience, and a parade of false learning from so-called experts
4. emphasis on full-color Sunday supplements, usually with comic strips
5. dramatic sympathy with the “underdog” against the system.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
When I was a child, our family got our news from the newspapers and the radio and the people we knew. The reporting was probably no better than now, but the saturation level was much lower. We only got the drivel that passed for news once a day.
Today, with the advent of the omnipresent internet, we get misinformation on a continuing basis, like elevator music, or supermarket music that permeates the environment and leaves a residue in the corners of your mind. We see, in scary headlines, that a politician is accused of attempted murder by a female colleague with no supporting evidence or detail and this drivel is repeated to an excessive degree for days on end. If you care to dig into this story, you will find that he said something she disagreed with.
The typical structure of a fake news article is an astonishing tale of wrongdoing that should tear at your heart until you read in the next to last paragraph of the article that someone said something that offended the journalist and those he represents.
If you have been ensnared by this kind of story, your best approach is to dig until you find the original video or message which triggered the fake news. Quite often, you will find that someone said something to explain a situation and others took the statement entirely out of context.
There has been a rash of accusations about racist behavior which when followed up turns out to be someone describing an undesirable situation and quoting what was done or said at the time. This includes mentioning words used in Huckleberry Finn as an example of language not used in polite society at this time, while these words are in common use by certain segments of society.
Much of the fake news today seems to be based on hurt feelings of some sort, where a hurt feeling is treated as a serious injury to one’s life. The validity of this can be exposed by digging into what was actually said and done by both sides and finding the root cause of the upset.
We will go into this situation in depth in the next installment: Dealing With A Lack Of Credible News Sources – Part Two.