Jack Nissen

Fact Advisor: Because Your Friend’s Status is Absolute BS

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Let the reality set in

One of the hardest things about being a journalist nowadays is competing with the rest of the world to provide information. The internet has made it very easy for anyone to search any kind of information and for anyone to get just the information they want.

“The world has divided itself up into so many groups there is a potential niche publication for everyone” said Felix Gutierrez, a professor emeritus from the University of Southern California. This has revealed a market for news sources to cover every story from a variety of different frames.

If someone wants to look at the lens through a very liberal progressive stature, they can easily look at Salon or Mother Jones for such news. If someone wants to to believe the world is run by conservative pundits, they need look no further than Blaze or Fox News. For every ideology, there is a new source to cater to that ideology, regardless of the legitimacy of the way the news is covered.

And all you have to do is hit “share.”

The Facebook and Twitter newsfeeds have become a dumping grounds for facts, both real and fake. Coincidentally, these social media hubs are also the place where so many of us get our news from. “Roughly two-thirds of U.S. adults use the site (Facebook) and half of those users get news there – amounting to 30% of the general population,” said Monica Anderson and Andrea Caumont in a report by the Pew Research Center.

For news sources embracing the “Adapt or Die” motto, both Twitter and Facebook are making it easier for both users to push out that news as well as access it. In another report done in 2015 by the Pew Research Center, “The Evolving Role of News on Twitter and Facebook,” such new features as Project Lightning by Twitter and the Trending Sidebar by Facebook cater to that insatiable desire for news consumption.

When an interested audience member finds content they deem as worthy to expressing to the public, they’ll push it onto their news feed. For an informed viewer, they could have a variety of content creators on their newsfeed, such as The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, or The Guardian. All respectable news sources that can be trusted to tell their audience what it factually correct.

How do you think they got a title that includes “THE” in front of it?

The Plight of Journalists

But what happens when the newsfeed of someone’s account gets clogged up with exclusively conservative news or that good ole “liberally biased media” everyone’s become brain-washed to believe is honest. Or what if a user is moderate and they read a status from their whack job of a friend is acknowledging how Obama was cited sayingHelp Us Destroy Jesus and Start A New Age Of Darkness.”

That’s not real news. It’s not even a real publication. But what if it was? It was a real publication that was lying by omission or using some very choice words to describe an individual. How would someone not as educated as a JRN 450 class at MSU studying this very phenomenon and more be able to assess what’s right and wrong.

This is the plight of journalists. Sure the good ones can be trusted to do their jobs. But not every writer is a good journalist. This is not limited to incredibly biased news sources (looking at you MSNBC). It’s hard to know who can and can’t be trusted anymore.

With the ease of reporting almost any fact, sticking the attribution of someone famous and reliable and putting an omnipresently warm glow around the words, it’s almost too easy to fake facts: 

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And the Truth Will Set you Free

What has become imperative among the social media users that rely on these platforms for their news is a truth app. A button that overlays an honesty filter on whatever is highlighted. It would to the work that a few minutes of research none of us have time for anymore would do in a few seconds. Like a Google search for accuracy and attribution that comes with a label for percentage of truth behind the statement highlighted.

One example that was used during the Virginia Race for Governor in 2013 was created by The Washington Post. It’s their app called “Truth Teller.” For example:

“Truth Teller is a way to fact check what politicians say, as they say it. When you watch a Truth Teller video on PostTV, you’ll see a transcript rolling next to it. When Truth Teller spots a false claim that we’ve reported on, a visual clue and a link to a full fact-check will appear.”
– Truth Teller Team, The Washington Post

Another good example would be Politifact. The only news source one would find that uses the term “Pants on Fire” legitimately and with purpose. Take a gander and it’s alarming to see how much politicians are given such a flaming grade.

Referenced by several publications during the 2016 election cycle, Politifact was viewed after each debate to see what each candidate said and the grades their statements were given.

Unless one refuses to listen to logic, which is no longer a rarity as this author had hoped for in this country, these kinds of applications are some of the few vital tools informed voters can use to make decisions about who they think is best for the position as commander in chief and every other electable position below that.

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