Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Modest Proposal: How a course title in 2010 on "Fake News" got me in trouble - however, as usual I was ahead of my time!

For a graduate class in 2010 and designed in the previous year for the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern I used the term "Fake News" in the course title. At that time it was clear that when I was interviewed as an "expert" for a news story there was a rapidly declining amount of "fact checking" after the reporter submitted the story to his or her editor. Sadly, the class was denied by a department chairman and former advertising agency (tobacco) executive.  Given the recent rise in the term "fake news", I will use the idea in a spring class this year. As your readers will recall www.snopes.com has been growing in broader use since 1996. http://www.snopes.com/ is the best place to find if a story is true or false without bias though not all conservative readers think snopes is unbiased.

A suggestion sent to Inside on suggestions to deal with fake news.  https://inside.com/daily-brief:  ​Is it possible to ask those who Tweet or send public messages to check a box to have their message "fact checked"?    Even the act of requesting a fact check for a particular message would be a signal to the readers.  Obviously the volume of messages will demand a smart programmer combining text analysis to create a non-voluntary fact check.   However, from a brilliant librarian (my daughter) in the Boston area (Wellesley, MA) here are some other currently used ideas:
She states "this is a summary of librarian methodology: http://usm.maine.edu/library/checklist-evaluating-web-resources or http://www.lib.vt.edu/instruct/evaluate/ There really ISN'T a website that can do this work for you, since the whole point is to get rid of bias, and you'd have to evaluate the bias of the list! 

Wiki keeps a list of actually FAKE websites, but those are fake, not just bias: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_fake_news_websites

I only recommend the following website as a supplemental. The polling of the bias of the sites isn't the most scientifically done (though they do explain it on the website), but it's good data to use in conjunction with other data points. https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/"
Looking for history connections it might be that "yellow journalism", propaganda and even the taking of "brass checks" might be the parents of the bastard child named "fake".  Keep fact checking in your transparent work! 

Clarke Caywood, Ph.D. Professor,  Northwestern University

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