This week I would like to write about something that I find particularly bothersome and even disturbing. Actually, I think everyone should find it particularly bothersome and even disturbing.
There is a trend that exists in our world of people wanting to believe just about anything they hear, particularly when it goes against the mainstream. This is not a new trend, though nowadays we notice it more thanks to technology and the ability to share information, as well as misinformation, more readily.
That’s right, I want to talk about misinformation, myths, misconceptions and other general hogwash.
It’s not the first time I have written about misinformation. In fact, I feel a little bit like a broken record. It was right around this time last year that I penned a column about fake public safety advisories.
Yet, every week it seems I see more spreading of misinformation. Through scams, hoaxes, poorly researched blogs, biased articles and more. As a journalist, it’s something I find quite annoying.
Most recently, a fake article about McDonalds serving human flesh invoked my rage. Of course, the article in question was from one of the many fake and prank news sites on the Internet which seem to be ever growing in popularity. I trust that our readers are not so uninformed as to believe such an article, but, much to my dismay, there are people, even people I know, who believe such tales.
Education is the best weapon against misinformation. Education, coupled with a heavy dose of common sense.
I’m not about to go into the details of why the McDonalds article is ludicrous because frankly, I shouldn’t need to, it’s that bogus. However, I am more than willing to share a few tips to help identify other fake articles, not that it is particularly difficult.
If something, like the above mentioned article, sounds too outrageous to be true, it likely is. As I said, joke, prank and fake news web sites are becoming increasingly popular and are the sources for most of these kinds of articles.
In cases where you can’t quite be sure at first glance whether or not an article or story you are viewing is genuine, check. I can usually find evidence disproving the information in less than a minute using a simple Google search.
You will of course run into certain articles of a more serious nature where the opinion is divided on what is and is not correct. That’s why it’s important to do your own research, educate yourself and rely on the facts, rather than solely what you hear from others, to form your opinions.
This extends to sharing information as well. If you want to share why you think organic vegetables are better than GMOs, go for it. But make sure it’s clear that you are expressing an opinion and back up your arguments with solid facts.
There are a lot of stereotypes regarding professionals in the media. Journalists are seedy characters who use questionable methods to obtain information, newspapers twist words to suit their own agendas, newscasters use scare tactics to make people watch the news and sensationalize fear and violence.
I’m not going to say this doesn’t happen in the media. Rather, it happens far too much.
That is exactly the reason why the spread of misinformation and continuation of these stereotypes is so bothersome. There are a lot of journalists like myself who abhor those kind of practices, but every time someone shares the work of someone that doesn’t, those negative stereotypes are reinforced.
I have spent my entire career working against these stereotypes. Perhaps you can understand then why I get so upset when I hear these clichés.
The same goes for seeing the spread of misinformation. Contrary to popular myth, journalists do not wish to spread lies and rumours and slander. However, so many members of the general population, often the same ones who criticize the media for being biased or misrepresenting the facts, are happy to do it for them.