When I was in grammar school, I got the Weekly Reader. It was a kid’s newspaper that we received at school. I loved the Weekly Reader because the editor chocked it full of facts. There were articles about space, history, geography, and other interesting facts. It was news I could use.
My grandmother Willie Watson also got weekly newspapers. Her papers were the National Inquirer and Weekly World News. A headline that stuck with me through the years was, “Legless Boy summersaults two miles to save dad.” Even though she read it religiously, she knew it was fake news.
It’s part of human nature to look for horrific news. Misfortune and the societal underbelly draw the reader’s attention. Bad news sells. A newspaper or magazine can have headlines for 10 inspirational
stories on the front page with one scandal. Most of us will read about the scandal first.
You can also observe this behavior in drivers when they pass a bad wreck on the highway. Drivers instinctively slow down — not to be safe, but to have a look at the carnage.
These days it’s hard to get on Facebook without seeing questionable news. When you scan the comments, you see that everyone’s undies are in a wad.
I saw a news article that accused Matt Lauer and the Today’s Show of deleting the word Christ from an interview with the widow of a Navy Seal. Christians were appalled and rightly so, had the story been true. But it wasn’t. It was fake news, and it spread like wildfire on Facebook. Following each share were threads of comments from outraged readers.
Trying to let someone know that what they are posting is untrue is risky. I’ve had people turn on me and say that they didn’t care whether it was true or not. Fake news and alternative facts reached a new level since the presidential election. I’ve seen fake news coming from both camps.
Back when Walter Cronkite was on CBS Evening News, there was no question about a story being true. If Walter said it, you could take it to the bank. That’s not the case these days. Both conservatives and liberals have news sources they trust. I usually like to read news from the British Broadcasting Corporation. I’ve found them to cover stories fairly. I don’t always like what they are saying but I’ve found they are a reliable source for news.
I developed a method to help me navigate Facebook and online news.
• If a news item comes across my Facebook timeline and it galls me...I mean pushes ALL my buttons, there is a better than even chance it's a lie.
• If I see one of these stories and want to share my outrage with my friends, I ALWAYS look on a fact checker site to see if it's true or false. There are several sites where I can verify stories.
• If it's FALSE I don't share it no matter how badly I want it to. Just because a story fits with my point of view, it doesn't make it true.