As anyone will know who’s ever been involved in a story that’s been turned into news, it’s what you hear in the media should generally always be divided by ten.
But lately the recommended divisor has recently become very much larger – and readers are increasingly wary of fake news. News which should attract a negative sign and not just a large divisor. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to know who to trust. Here’s one tweeter’s handy guide:
Updated chart by Vanessa Otero.
For the record, she’s a lawyer from Colorado; and you know how lawyers lie for a living. So you have to wonder: can she be trusted?
So how do you judge a news story today, before you read it – or share it -- especially when so few people these days seem to read nothing but the headline,
A muslim is harassed on a bus by racist Trump supporters, you hear. And then you hear she made the story up.
A muslim immigrant rapes a twelve-year-old girl, you hear. And then you discover the story is made up by the authors of an anti-immigrant website.
Not to mention the stories emanating from the CIA that Russia hacked the American election – stories rejected by the FBI who “decline to accept the CIA’s analysis” because unlike the CIA (who has actually hacked elections) their own “evidentiary standards require it to make cases that can stand up in court.”
Even the fact-checking sites themselves whom you used to be able to trust are now accused of bias.
So who do you trust in a post-truth world when you know it’s the truth that will always set you free?
And by what manner or means can you manage to winnow the fake from the fulsome?
Visiting professor at Loyola University Ben Bayer reckons he has developed the perfect sniff test.
This isn’t [he assures us] like that professor’s dogmatic list of sites to avoid. It’s general advice that anyone can use to figure out for themselves what to treat as reliable and unreliable — to assemble their own list of reliable and unreliable news sources.
So how do you develop a critical nose for news?
It involves learning how to do a sniff test on the news.
The sniff test for news is just like the one you do at the supermarket. You wouldn’t bite into a melon that smells funky, so why would you swallow a news story that does? News is funky when the source is suspicious, when the nature of the claim being made is disproportionate to the evidence offered, and when it’s presented in a dishonest manner.
The sniff test for news is far from infallible. But in my experience, running the test before believing and sharing a story can help avoid embarrassing mistakes.
Bayer has written a series of five posts that he’s been sharing over the last fortnight (currently up to four) that you might like to read, and digest, and share with those really annoying friends who continually post fake fricking news! Ahem.
Eventually [he said when he started the series] I’ll include a separate link to an essay about each question here, so you can share just the one you might think an offending poster needs to ask him or herself:
(1) What is the source of this story and what do I know about it?
(2) How likely is the story to be true in the first place?
(3) If this story were true, what else would be true?
(4) Does the story represent its own facts honestly?
(5) Why do I want to believe it is true? Why would someone else want me to believe it’s true?
Feel free to share.