Facts Matter: With elections looming, watch out for fake news
As the 2020 primary and general elections draw closer, Americans should be wary of hoaxes, lies and smear efforts falsely propagated as news on the internet and in other media, two veteran journalists cautioned.
Senior Deputy Managing Editor Diane Dungey and Deputy Managing Editor Pete Nenni spoke about the dangers of so-called fake news Wednesday in a community forum at Forest View Educational Center in Arlington Heights.
"Fake news is heading into overdrive," Nenni told the audience of about 70 people. "You're really going to be called on to be more discriminating in the things you read and hear."
The discussion was the latest in the Facts Matter series presented by the Daily Herald and Northwest Suburban High School District 214.
Although it's become one of President Donald Trump's catchphrases, "fake news" is a term that dates to the 1890s, Dungey said. Back then, it was used to describe false information sent to newspapers for publication.
Today, a lot of fake news appears on social media. Facebook and Twitter have taken steps to combat fake news, Dungey and Nenni said, but false reports and digitally manipulated photos still appear. Political lies and disinformation also show up in campaign flyers, mailings designed to look like official government communications and websites that look like reputable journalistic outlets.
People spread fake news to change political outcomes, gain fame and make money, among other reasons. Creating chaos often is a motive, Dungey said.
"Some people, that's their whole goal," she said.
People often fall for fake news when they seek out content that caters to their points of view, Nenni said.
"And that's where we get into trouble," he said.
Dungey and Nenni told the audience how to spot lies and bias in the media. If a story makes you angry, that's a big clue it might be fake, Nenni said.
Stories without bylines are less likely to be legitimate, too, as are stories with sources that don't check out.
Dungey and Nenni recommended some reliable websites people can visit to confirm or deny the veracity of questionable media reports. Politifact.com and opensecrets.org are good ones, they said.
Audience members asked questions and shared their opinions throughout the 90-minute discussion.
One person suggested newspapers should do more to differentiate between news and opinions pieces. Another asked if editors look for biased language in articles submitted by The Associated Press or other news services. Nenni insisted they do.
"That is part of the (editing) process," he said.
The final Facts Matter session is called "Editing for Politics" and is set for 7 p.m. Nov. 6 at Forest View, 2121 S. Goebbert Road.
The presentation is free and open to the public. Attendees should register online at bit.ly/DHFactsMatter2019 or by calling (847) 718-7700.