How to Spot Fake News

By James Lowe, Special for USDR

John Stewart and the likes of Saturday Night live and others love the world of fake news and making headlines with such topics. Heck, the Onion News site {which I use that term very loosely} has made a lot of money off the FAKE news trend. I recently have been asked to make the rounds on several national news shows on radio and TV about this topic of “How to Spot Fake news”.  Lots of media folks use blogs and social media as a way to prep for their programs daily. The internet is letting everyone have a voice but believe me, this is not the greatest thing in the world with amateur bloggers and professional bloggers get the landscape muddied. Once again social media is being trusted as news and this may not be a good idea. How can you tell which stories are true, this is what we will attempt to render this week.

I have been involved in the internet culture since 2000, with such sites as Yahoo and Lycos being a place where people get their news.  Sometime along the way we all went from blogs to social media to message boards and forums to sites such as The Onion, and The Spoof and political humor sites. I see folks online via social media posting videos, and stories from these sites and other sites. 90 percent of the time everyone knows itsha-ha but then I see these stories and videos pop up on social media saying, “President Clinton Shot” click here. Now most of these sites are just trying to grab clicks and drive up google AdSense money. Lots of times most people know, this is nonsense and all sorts of shenanigans always ensue.

Are Blogs and Twitter true news outlets; this is the question folks have been asking for years. First off let’s take a look at Blogs, Blogs have become a place where newspaper and out of work journalists have become relevant again in the internet age. For instance Robert Feder who used to write for The Chicago Sun times from 1980 to 2008. Feder has taken to his own site, and reports to the world of happenings on media and culture in the Chicago area. Then you have the Huffington Post which is a basically a blog where folks apply their news commentary and some breaking news happen there. My good friend Charles Faddius who is a syndicated columnist for various online mediums, he makes a living being an opinion writer. Most bloggers do not break news they react to news and give their commentary on the views of the day. Twitter is a tool that internet talk radio show host Tom Leykis, Tom uses Twitter as show prep for his daily afternoon program. He is using what folks are talking about as hot topics to do show prep. I use Twitter as a way to prep as well but I use it to find news, I follow news sources such as The Associated Press and others or cable channels who have twitter feeds.  You do not want to confuse those folks like a Michael Savage or Keith Olbermann who have taken on topics from folks who are reporting news.

What separates an amateur blogging about current events from a professional? I mentioned earlier folks like Robert Feder out of Chicago who blogs on current events and gossip in the Chicagoland area. The Professional world of blogging is not just as simple as “I get paid for it” so I am a professional. The folks such as Feder get paid off of google adsense, etc on his blog. Every once in a while you have folks who come along and they break news online and they are considered amateurs and become professionals cause they have a news story that makes them. Drudge Report, Matt Drudge went from being a blogger and newsman who no one had really heard of, then at some stage during the Clinton scandal became a Professional and recognized mainstream guy, The Drudge Report now is quoted as part of the NBC, ABC,etc crowd of news.

Can social media be a trusted news source? Now this becomes something that happens on a 50/50 route. For instance, I remember seeing and you see it all the time on Social media, “Miley Cyrus does something shocking…” or “Pro wrestling star John Cena Dead after failed stunt in training” now this seems to always pop up on Facebook, twitter, etc and I even have had people see these things and call me on the phone or send me text’s and ask me if this is real or fake. As I mentioned earlier in the column here, a lot of this is just people trying to get clicks and run up their google AdSense and also a lot of these sites are designed to steal your information or lead to phishing sites. The site softapedia had this to say recently, “A similar scam was seen making the rounds a couple of days ago, when spam emails  informed recipients that Gabby Douglas, the US gymnast who won two gold medals at the London 2012 Olympics, had been banned for using drugs. In that case, the link to the alleged video led to a webpage that attempted to dupe the victim into downloading a fake Flash Player update.”

The big question is how can you tell which stories are true? I would say your best bet is trust a news source, for instance if MSNBC, or a feed from Fox News or something like that posts something it more than likely is true. You have such sites as Yahoo and Google News that goes out and aggregate stories into one area. A site we use as show prep for our Wed radio show guests is New Media Journal, it’s a news aggregation site, it pulls in stories for different topics such as National and Local stories, International news, Culture wars, etc. Best idea is to do your own research and your own home work on news and stories yourself.

James Lowe known as The Jiggy Jaguar on Radio and TV programs that he has hosted since 1993. James has interviewed such folks as Neal Boortz, best selling authors Mary Higgins Clarke and Dean Koontz, James also operates a non profit called Concerts for the cause as well. In addition James has produced Cable Access TV programs and has won awards in radio, recently being listed on Frontier 50 for 2013. James pioneered the concept for radio programs to be viewed via video online. James also writes a regular piece for various websites and newspapers. 

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.

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