Daily Herald journalists talk about combating fake news
In a time when clickbait produced by Macedonian teenagers can be seen by as many people as award-winning journalism, how are we supposed to know what's real and what's fake news?
This week, Daily Herald journalists and a high school English teacher came together to talk about fake news and how readers can spot it. The event was the second of five "Facts Matter" presentations produced by the Daily Herald in conjunction with Northwest Suburban High School District 214.
"Fake news is something that's just not factual," said Diane Dungey, the Daily Herald's senior deputy managing editor. "It's very pervasive. It's so important to recognize it and to understand how it manipulates you."
Roughly 100 news consumers attending Wednesday night's presentation in Arlington Heights shared plenty of examples when asked if they've seen things that didn't appear to be true. Everything from misleading photographs to made-up quotes had appeared on their social media feeds.
And that's part of the problem, according to Jason Block, an English teacher at Prospect High School in Mount Prospect.
Block said research shows people trust their "friends" on social media more than actual news outlets.
"We look at who shared it with us -- who retweeted it, who posted it to their Facebook page -- and that's the person that we decide if we trust or not, whether it's fake or it's real," said Block, who teaches media analysis and journalism.
Meanwhile, an MIT study found people were 70 percent more likely to share something that's fake than something that's real.
"Fake news isn't new," said Pete Nenni, the Daily Herald's deputy managing editor. "It's just that social media has made it more pervasive and subtle and even more dangerous."
Nenni said the people who push fake news do it for a variety of reasons, including to make money, to persuade and to change political outcomes. Some are doing it "to just mess with you," he said.
Dungey said readers need to be skeptical and not share something on social media that appears untrue.
Stories and photos without bylines and photo credits are less likely to be legitimate. They also might not be real if they aren't on recognizable websites.
"You have to use a little critical thinking in order to unmask fake news," Nenni said.