Fake News: What is Fake News?
So... What is Fake News, Anyway?
Fake News Isn't Really New
Although "fake news" has been getting a lot of attention recently, the problem isn't really a new one.
© The Yellow Press by LM Glackens, Published by Keppler & Schwarzmann, 1910 - From the Library of Congress
Yellow Journalism was the term used to refer to a newspaper that emphasized sensationalism over facts in the late 1800s. As depicted in the image above, yellow journalism focused on appeals to emotions and sensationalism. For a history of yellow journalism, visit the State Department's page.
© Image from Roads Publishing
"Tabloid journalism" is another form of fake news many of us are familiar with. Tabloid journalism refers to a sensationalistic and deliberately false reporting. For more information on tabloid journalism, see voiceseducation.org.
Other Names for “fake news”
- Yellow journalism
- Penny Press
- Tabloid journalism
- Spurious news
- False news
of “fake news”
New York Sun’s Great Moon Hoax
This series of stories appeared in 1835, claiming that an astronomer had found evidence of life on the moon, including unicorns and humanoid bats.
War of the Worlds Broadcast
Orson Wells caused panic in 1938 with a broadcast of “War of the Worlds,” a radio dramatization of a Martian invasion of Earth.
AIDS Disinformation Campaign
In 1983 the Soviet Bloc spread a story that the United States’ had created the AIDS epidemic through medical experiments.
The Spanish American War
During the 1890s, Yellow Journalism sensationalized and even made up events to inflame public opinion, eventually helping push the United States into war.
Nazi Blood Libel
From the Middle Ages to Nazi Germany, various groups have used propaganda to accuse Jewish people of ritual murder.
Types of Fake News
How Can I Be a Responsible User (and Sharer) of News?
- Read the whole article, not just the headline
- Check the authority of the source(s)
- Read multiple sources
- Avoid confirmation bias
- Follow the story as new stories are posted
- Think & check before you share!
- Above all - think critically & ask questions!
- Be skeptical.
- Look for disclaimers, such as "for entertainment" or "satire"
Get Help With...
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What is the Difference Between....
Fake news, bias, opinion and satire can be closely related and can coexist within the same story, but can also be different. It is important to understand and consider all four when evaluating any source of information.
- Fake News
- As discussed in the section on "Types of Fake News," true fake news is false or misleading information written or shared with the intent of misleading the audience. Bias and opinion can play a role in the creation of fake news, but are also important to consider in traditional news sources as well.
- News can be biased without being fake, but you should always consider the potential bias or agenda in any source you are using, especially if it is not written by an expert. If a source is too biased, you may want to consider whether it crosses the line into "fake" news.
- Consider not only the bias of the source, but your own biases as well - we all have them! Do your pre-existing beliefs lead you to want to believe or disbelieve the story? If so, this is confirmation bias. Make sure you consider how your confirmation bias affects your ability to view the story objectively, and make sure you look for objective ways to verify or disprove the story.
- Be watchful of using items that appear in the opinion section of a newspaper or magazine as fact. Opinion sections are generally separate from the news, and may range from expert opinions on a topic to lay opinions. If you are going to use an opinion, make sure you understand who wrote the opinion piece, what expertise (if any) makes their opinion worth using, and what bias or agenda they might have.
- Dictionary.com defines satire as 1) the use of irony, sarcasm, ridicule or the link in exposing, denouncing or deriding vice, folly, etc.; 2) a literary composition, in verse or prose, in which human folly and vice are held up to scorn, derision, or ridicule; or 3) a literary genre comprising such compositions.
- As discussed in the section on "Types of Fake News," satire is generally not intended to be taken seriously, but can cause problems if it is inadvertently shared as real news, or a reader doesn't realize it is satire.