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Spread the truth about fake news; restore the truth in journalism (Draft 1)

by Kazumi

Preface: I strongly recommend reading the prequel essay to this before reading this one. I think you'll gain a better understanding of this essay if you do. Here's the link: The Roots and The Fruits of Fake News.


Spread the truth about fake news; restore the truth in journalism

On the day of January 13th this year, Hawaii was sent into panic by a ballistic missile alarm. Text messages, televisions, and sirens all blared the same message emphasizing, “THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” Its citizens, who were within the nuclear missile range of Pyongyang, thought they had minutes left before an explosive death. So began a mad scramble for shelter. Men, women, and children stuffed themselves into just about anywhere that could be considered a hiding place. Some in rooms, some in drainage pipes. There were some who collapsed, due to the overwhelming stress. The chaos continued for a full thirty-seven minutes before the authorities managed to announce that this was just a false alarm. Though there was no actual missile that landed, damage had already been done.

The Hawaii missile scare is an example of what misinformation can do to society. It can stop the usual operation of society and plunge its people into hysteria. Fake news has been happening to us in subtler, less newsworthy ways, but it is still happening nonetheless. We must take measures to combat fake news, stop its disruptive effects and bring back the truth.

1.Know what fake news looks like.

Fake news articles have very striking headlines that are written purely to catch attention. They often contain capital letters, boldfaces, or exclamation points. The writing and the formats in the site may look amateur. Watch the tone in the article: if the way the writer expresses themselves sounds incredibly emotionally manipulative or biased, then it may be fake news. Their pictures and quotes may also be taken out of context. If the About Us section of the website and the profile of the writer are either ambiguous, not credible, or blocked by a requirement to register, then you should be skeptical. Watch your emotions as well. Some fake news articles are built to condition public opinion, so if you find yourself immediately or exceedingly emotional after reading an article, then you may be looking at something designed to manipulate you.

If you know an online article is fake news, do not click on it or share its link, unless you know what you are doing. You may contribute to making fake news seem like a profitable business by sharing your click, or you may expose the article to more gullible minds if you do choose to share it.

2.Expose yourself to other and more credible news outlets.

If you are the kind of person that gets news from one news outlet exclusively, then you should take a look at other sources as well. Aside from the benefit of becoming more open-minded, simply reading articles from other sources is a form of fact-checking, which is a good way to counter fake news. If all but one or a very few are reporting on a certain event, then that certain event may be fabricated.

If you can’t be bothered to fact-check, let the fact-checking websites do that work for you instead. Some well-known ones are Snopes and Hoax-Slayer. These kinds of sites debunk circulating internet urban legends, expose scams, clarify the happenings in politics, and of course, verify the truthfulness of news events. 

It is also a golden rule to always refer to established news outlets. These are trusted by the government and the public for their journalists’ integrity and experience in their profession all throughout their years. In the Philippines, some of these are The Philippine Star, The Manila Bulletin, The Inquirer, ABS-CBN and TV 5. CNN, Reuters, BBC, and Al Jazeera are some news agencies that are based in other countries.

Fake news preys on the narrow-mindedness and gullibility of its viewers. Once you open your vistas, fake news will have less of an effect on you.

3.Educate others.

Like what was mentioned before, fake news depends on the gullibility and narrow-mindedness of its viewers in order to generate traffic, cause conflicts or shape public opinion. Therefore, education is the solution here. Once people become aware of the existence of fake news and its divisive effects, they will become more immune to its manipulation.

This is why I urge you: spread the word about fake news. Alert your family and friends about its presence. Expose lies when they are being perceived to be the truth. Mentally arm everyone around you on how to counter fake news. We humans have lived in an era before mass misinformation, and we can bring that era back again by spreading the truth about fake news and restoring the truth in journalism.

(774 words.)


Afterword: This is the first draft of the actual essay of the title above. I am aware that this has flaws, but I want to incorporate some of the community's feedback on top of my own when I rewrite it.

This is meant to be an op-ed/column article, so it's meant to be persuasive, and the word cap is at around 600-900 words. I've no issue with the word limit (I've worked with those for a long time), but I'm a bit insecure about the persuasive part. I find some of the actual columns that I've read to sound stuck-up and high up their high horse. That's why I've only said "I" once in the entire essay. However, I fear that that will make me sound less persuasive. I'd appreciate if you focus on how persuasive and compelling I am while you review.

This is meant to be a problem-solution essay as well. That's why I presented a problem in the first paragraph and established how problematic it is before diving into how to solve this problem. I'm a bit insecure about the news lead I got though. It's a stretch to call the Hawaii missile scare as fake news. It was obviously an accident, and it's not even a news report either. If you know any big fake news events that happened, then I'd like it if you can share them with me.

I'm also open to any of your ideas that can add to (or challenge) the ones presented in the essay. It'd be even more dope if you could link sources to them. I know I haven't referred to enough sources and done enough research, so I'm also looking for more dirt that I can use in this essay. 

Thanks in advance.

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Sun Mar 25, 2018 1:22 am
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BluesClues wrote a review...

So first of all, to assuage your fears a bit: I don't think the lack of "I" is an issue. If you don't refer to yourself or say "I think" or anything like that, your essay sounds like fact and is thus more persuasive than if you undercut your own message with "I think that" or "I feel that" (as opposed to "this is how it is").

Your structure is good - there's a clear purpose to the article and it's easy to follow.

The persuasion is probably the weakest, particularly in the first body paragraph (more on that in a moment), but I'm not sure how to fix that. You're doing your best to educate people on how to recognize fake news and how to avoid it, but, well, I don't know about in the Philippines, but here in the U.S. there are plenty of narrow-minded people who refuse to get their news from more than one news source because they think the other news sources - who might be giving less biased or more informed news - are untrustworthy or biased in a way that's against their preconceived notion.

It's hard to fight that. It's hard to persuade someone who isn't open-minded enough to read past the introduction.

On the plus side, your use of the term "fake news" - frequently used by a certain president to defame his detractors - might actually draw these people in, even though I'm pretty sure their idea of what constitutes "fake news" is very different from yours.

Okay, so back to the first body paragraph.

if the way the writer expresses themselves sounds incredibly emotionally manipulative or biased, then it may be fake news.

This was the weakest part of the entire article, because people who are narrow-minded, biased, or uneducated and potentially in the most danger of being informed by fake news are unlikely to recognize this at all. If the writer expresses an opinion that's 100% different from the reader's, the reader won't read it anyway. If the writer expresses an opinion in alignment with theirs, well, confirmation bias exists, so they're going to take it as true or simply not care if they find out it's false - "well, that article might have been false, BUT THIS IS STILL TRUE BECAUSE IT'S WHAT I BELIEVE."

The only way I can think to counter this is potentially with an example? But I don't know how to guard against confirmation bias.

Kazumi says...

I'm in the middle of something right now, but thanks for the review. I'm sorry I couldn't make a more detailed response. I'm glad that you finally took this out of the Green Room. When I finalize this entire thing, I'll take everything you said into consideration.

Thanks again for the review

BluesClues says...

No problem!

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Fri Mar 09, 2018 6:41 pm
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Esion wrote a review...

Hello, Esion here to review. I love essays so this seemed up my alley. I loved the topic you chose. I believe it is an extremely important issue and one that doesn't get enough attention.

To start, I actually really liked your Hawaii example. I agree that it's not a fake news, but that event had very similar consequences to a fake news story. I am not sure of a better example and I think it is absolutely fine to leave it in.

Your three points seem pretty solid, however I think I would add more to the second one. Maybe a small paragraph about what makes these sources more reputable or trustworthy, especially fact checkers like Snopes. Because you tell people before to be skeptical and check multiple sources, but then say if you don't have time let them do it for you. It sounds a little biased and I think it weakens the case. So, I think adding a small bit about why we trust these sources so much would be really helpful.

I think the first sentence of the last paragraph is great. "This is why I urge you: spread the word about fake news. Alert your family and friends about its presence." It engages the reader and gives them a sense of urgency and importance.

Overall I believe this essay was really well constructed and presents good arguments. If you add a little to the above mentioned point, I think it would add a lot of strength to the points you are trying to make. Hope this was helpful in someway.

Well done and keep writing.

“And how shall I think of you?' He considered a moment and then laughed. 'Think of me with my nose in a book!”
— Susanna Clarke, Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell