The media landscape has become littered with false news stories, making it much harder to find the real news. This year, in response to this growing phenomenon, we have seen an increase in the introduction of several initiatives around the world (including the Italian government) aimed at combating the proliferation of fake news. People recognize that fake news is a real and growing problem and want to ensure the continued existence of real news.
Among the many efforts out there, you may have seen PSAs in local and national newspapers over the last several months calling on Americans to “Support Real News”. These PSAs are part of our Support Real News campaign, which first launched in March, with the most recent ad being released today. The mission of the campaign is to shine a light on the harm to the public caused by fake news and highlight the importance of real news produced by respected, trusted news organizations.
The two latest ads are part of a three-part series that focuses on the need and importance of improved news literacy; that is, the ability to tell the difference between real and fake news and, if it’s not obvious from the headline (which, often, it is not) – how to find out which one it is.
The first ad advises readers to “Use a Trusted Source”, such as a respected news organization, to ensure they are getting real news. It also sends readers to a website, Is It Real News, which is filled with resources from third-parties – including universities, nonprofit foundations, independent media organizations, fact-checking organizations and other educational groups – to help people learn how to tell if something is real news, or whether it is fake.
The second, newest ad focuses on the critical role quality journalists play in ensuring news is truthful and accurate. In this case, we provide a helpful acronym, leveraging a key word in the world of news literacy – SOURCE. The ad uses the letters to help readers remember how high-quality journalists help deliver real news. They: Seek Out the truth. Unbiased in their Reporting. Correct all Errors.
This campaign is about helping people to recognize when something is real, and when it may not be and they should do more research. A solid and real news story will include credible sources and will be fact-checked for its ability to withstand inquiries as to whether statements in the story are true.
Professional journalists adhere to the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, which mandates that they seek and report the truth, even if they don’t agree with it. It also states that they must “gather, update and correct information throughout the life of a news story.” They must admit their mistakes and remain open and transparent with readers. Ultimately, they must take responsibility for the truthfulness and accuracy of their work.
Other content producers simply posting information to the web are not bound by this Code of Ethics. They may publish information for which they did not quote a credible source, or that has not been vetted by team members or fact-checked.
How do you know that an author isn’t simply quoting a fake source? Many fake news stories, on the surface, are made to look like real news.
If the article is raising red flags and something just isn’t adding up, chances are, there is a reason for that. Trust your instincts and dig deeper – do some investigative work of your own to be sure you aren’t getting duped!
I can usually tell that an article is real news when I see the author’s corrections detailed in notations immediately above or below the article. To me, it is not so important that the author made a mistake, but that he or she corrected the error, admitted their mistake and held themselves accountable. I would trust that reporter’s work going forward, unlike a story containing false information that, upon the inaccuracy being pointed out, is not revised and no explanation or apology given for the misleading information. Why should I ever take that author’s word again? Why should you? We should demand more from our news! There are real news organizations out there that can and do stand up to the scrutiny, because their journalists adhere to the Code of Ethics and their reporting stands up to the test. Those are the sources from which I want to get my news.
The Support Real News campaign is about raising awareness and calling attention to those who knowingly exploit media communication channels to advance their agendas, by lying and even pretending to be an authentic news source. We can fight back against this problem through widespread education and calling on the public at-large to be vigilant and skeptical about recognizing fake news sources and not continuing to spread it, while supporting the providers of real news. Our original campaign video sounds the alarm on fake news and clearly conveys the reasons we need to support quality, investigative journalism now. Real news holds those in power accountable and is critical to preserving our democracy.
The third ad in the series, coming soon, will be the voice of real news, sharing why they do what they do, and why reporting the truth, even if they have to risk their lives, is so critical to the knowledge and education of our society.
To access helpful educational materials for improving news literacy, visit Is It Real News.
Lindsey is the Communications Director for the News/Media Alliance. Prior to joining the Alliance, she led communications for a food and nutrition nonprofit in Washington, D.C. for over eight years.