Aside from, you know, democracy, one of the institutions that has been most damaged by the explosive growth of the “fake news” phenomenon has been the news media itself.
Professional journalism has been devalued both by the term’s overuse (thank you Donald Trump) and by online content that gets labeled as news and shared by people who can’t—or can’t be bothered—to tell the difference (thank you social media).
But news organizations are starting to push back. In the past few weeks, three different campaigns have been launched to fight back against fake news—two from Canadian organizations, and one by a Canadian agency for a Florida organization.
Canadian Journalism Foundation
The Doubt It? campaign is meant to give Canadians skills and tools to understand the difference between fact-based journalism and fake news in digital and social media. The website DoubtIt.ca includes tips and links to fact-checking sites, as well as a quiz for people to test their own fake news detecting skills. There are also video PSAs starring well-known Canadian journalists Supriya Dwivedi and Peter Mansbridge correcting the behaviour of people spreading fake news.
“We are using humour for this very serious topic to encourage people to engage, share and ultimately fight back against fake news and misinformation,” said Natalie Turvey, president and executive director of the CJF. “We want Canadians to be savvy when it comes to the information they consume. Be skeptical—if you doubt it, then check it, then challenge it and call it out.”
According to the CJA, 90% of Canadians admit to falling for fake news, and 40% say it is tough to distinguish between truth and misinformation in the news. The problem is compounded by the fact fake news spreads six times faster than the truth.
News Media Canada
News Media Canada, the organization representing hundreds of print and digital news titles, also created a media literacy campaign to help Canadians assess online news and information, built around the website SpotFakeNews.ca.
The site provides tools, tips and resources to help people identify fake news. “We know that so-called fake news, and the spread of disinformation online are very real concerns for Canadians,” said News Media Canada president and CEO John Hinds.
“According to an Ipsos-Reid study, 63% of Canadians have trouble distinguishing between legitimate news websites and fake news stories. We developed ‘SPOT’ to provide Canadians with a simple, easy-to-remember tool they can use anytime they’re consuming news online.”
SPOT is an acronym for:
S: Is this a credible Source? Check the source of the article—and be skeptical.
P: Is the Perspective biased? Think critically and look for varying viewpoints on an issue.
O: Are Other sources reporting the same story? Be your own fact-checker and verify the validity of the story.
T: Is the story Timely? Check the date the story was published—sometimes, stories use old information to take advantage of a timely occurrence.
“The term fake news is often used incorrectly, to discredit or dismiss information that people don’t like or agree with,” said Hinds. Which brings us back to Donald Trump…
The Florida Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, working with Calgary agency Wax
The SPJ is focusing on Donald Trump’s overuse of the term “Fake News” by trademarking the term.
“Trump has popularized the idea that all mainstream media is lying and corrupt,” said Emily Bloch, president, SPJ Florida Pro Chapter. “We’re now seeing people using the term to dismiss truthful stories that don’t align with their politics or views. And that’s a major problem for healthy discourse in a democracy.”
SPJ Florida Pro Chapter is also sending out cease and desist letters to frequent abusers of the term—including Trump.
The campaign is being launched with a video that explains the initiative and drives people to FakeNewsTM.com which also has tips on how to spot actual fake news and what journalists are doing to ensure they report the truth.
“It may seem absurd, or even extreme, to attempt to trademark a popular term like ‘fake news,’ but we’re hoping the idea is provocative enough to get people to stop and think about how they use the term or what it means when others use it,” said Bloch.