Today's News: Real or Fake?
A survey last week about the news Canadians consume fell under the radar. We lead busy lives these days and it's difficult for many people to keep up with the news, much less a survey about it.
The survey showed Canadians are having a hard time separating real news from fake news and there's been a dramatic jump in the number of people not believing the news media.
As somebody who spent 15 years in the media doing radio news, these are sobering results, although not surprising. There's lots of good journalism being done. We just need to avoid the crap.
Almost Half Don't Know if it's Real or Fake
We’ve heard for the last couple of years about fake news. Donald Trump didn’t coin that phrase, but he’s incorrectly given credit for doing so.
With so many false stories popping up on social media platforms like Facebook, it’s been difficult to separate the truth from what isn't.
Last week a survey was released that showed how difficult it is for Canadians to determine what’s real when it comes to the news we consume. The survey was done for the Canadian Journalism Foundation. It showed 40% of the 2,300 people polled admitted they struggled to distinguish between real news and false news stories.
That’s not surprising. Maybe the only thing that is, is that people are admitting it. It would have been much easier for people to claim they knew the difference, although many likely don’t.
Real, Fake, Opinions and Commentary
Spotting fake news online is really pretty simple. If the story comes from a reputable source like the Globe and Mail, it’s legit. If it comes from some bizarre online publication that you’ve never heard of like Politico.uk.co, it’s likely fake.
Headlines also give things away. The Woman With 4 Heads Who Voted for Hillary is a cinch for being a fake news story. Mind you, there is a lot of grey area and there’s where the problem comes. If the headline is Trudeau Ready to Resign, it may be legit.
We used to have media sources we could trust. When Walter Cronkite, Knowlton Nash or Harvey Kirck told you something, you damn well knew it was true. Now we don’t. When Cronkite closed his nightly newscast with the line “and that’s the way it was”, you knew you were getting the straight goods. There was no opinion, no speculation and no biased coverage.
Although you could argue that certain newspapers, or the CBC had a political slant years ago, if they did it wasn’t blatant. It was subtle. Now there’s nothing subtle about a number of news outlets and we’re not just talking about online news sources we’ve never heard of. That’s the problem.
We used to have real news reported all the time. Now with the 24/7 news cycle and so many news outlets that need to fill time, there just aren’t enough facts to go around, so opinions take up the majority of time and opinions quickly get confused with facts. One pundit on TV will make a prediction, it will get reported and suddenly it seems like it has happened.
I always tell people when I do media training not to guess or speculate in the media and that’s one of the reasons why.
We've Lost Faith in the Media
The other major finding in this survey was even more sobering. The number of people who questioned the validity of news reports has jumped 10% in the past year.
This wasn’t a surprise. Sadly.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a blog about Postmedia endorsing Jason Kenney and his UCP in the April 16 Alberta election and I received a few comments from readers that they no longer trust the media.
I get a little offended by statements like that because I think we’re talking about different portions of the news media.
While I understand what they’re saying, I think people need to separate the US media from the Canadian media for starters. We don’t really get local US media in Canada to a large degree, we just get the national cable news outlets and it is understandable why people don’t trust Fox on the right side of the political spectrum or CNN on the left.
After you shut as much American cable news coverage out as you can, focus on the news in Canada. I believe mainstream news coverage in Canada is fair, if we’re talking about national news coverage from places like CBC, CTV and Global, local TV coverage and stories in daily and weekly papers, or national papers like the Globe and the National Post.
If you want to point to fringe outlets like Rebel Media that’s a different story. If you want to talk about opinions instead of news coverage, once again that’s a different story and if you want to reference what columnists and bloggers think, once again that’s a different story.
When you separate the wheat from the chaff, you’ll find pretty solid news coverage from men and women who work as reporters and editors and do the best jobs they can to bring you informative and well-balanced journalism on a daily basis.
Maybe it’s your political beliefs that give you the impression that that kind of journalism is still biased?
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