How to Avoid Misinformation in the Media

Reagan Reed, Staff Writer

An increasingly concerning problem is steadily rising in the media. There has been a large spike in the amount of false or misleading information being posted on social media or even aired on actual news channels. As technology continues to evolve it becomes easier and easier for people to produce false information and share it online for others to get confused and alienated by. 

It’s not just scammers on Facebook and trolls on Instagram causing problems, though, it’s also the professional media itself. Sometimes the media and journalists rush to try and get the latest story out before anyone else can, and this ends up causing them to make more errors and release facts that haven’t been confirmed or proven to be true. These facts are later proven to be false, but it doesn’t undo the fact that many viewers already have the preconceived notion that the story was true, and you can’t undo that from people’s minds, making it very dangerous for misinformation to be spread on that wide of a scale. 

Not only do people believe the wrong information, but they also begin to distrust the media altogether, claiming that it’s all “fake news,” whenever something they don’t like is released. People stop believing facts because they believe the news is lying to them.

People need to be able to trust the news again, or else we’ll just have a generation of uninformed people, and it’s necessary that as citizens we remain aware of the state of the world and our country. Not to say that everyone should believe everything they hear on the news, but people should find sources that are credible and that suit you. There are many steps people can take to confirm that a source is credible.

The first thing people can do as a precaution to avoid misinformation is to check and see if there are any red flags in the headline. Such red flags could be blatantly unrealistic claims, key words being written in all caps, and several exclamation points being at the end of the headline. Professional news sources will never have those kinds of things in their headlines because they do not intend to mislead people with fake claims, and they know that in the professional world there are more practical ways to emphasize a point without capitalization and exclamations. So, if any headlines have those things included in them, you can go ahead and mark them off your list of trustworthy sources, because it is most likely someone online trying to scare people and spread misinformation.

Another small trick for avoiding falling for fake news is to check for spelling and punctuation errors. This may seem like something very trivial and nitpicky, but it is actually a very telling sign that something is not trustworthy. Anything produced by an actual verifiable news source will never have obvious grammatical errors or mispelled words, so you can use this as a telltale sign of bad sources.

One of the most rampant causes of the spreading of false information is when a website is trying to pass for itself off as a major publication by using a similar URL to the actual publication. These sites will pose as the original site and the URL will be extremely similar, and sometimes when you look something up the fake site is the first one to pop up, so it can be misleading. However, these fake sites can be avoided by only using websites that have URLs ending in things like .gov, .edu, and most of the time .com. 

Lastly, checking the dates of an article is extremely important. Sometimes, in order to pass off a certain narrative the author of the article will cite another article as support for their point of view, however, they will use outdated articles that are no longer relevant, and this is a form of misleading the public. As a rule of thumb, any article two years or older is most likely not correct in the present day. Always remember to refer to multiple sources when verifying a story or facts. 

This is a lot to take into account when simply trying to read the news, but in today’s times it’s almost always necessary in order to make sure you’re getting the right information. It’s typically pretty easy to tell when a story isn’t true because they will have lots of these telling qualities. These rules won’t always be applied to every situation, and in those scenarios it really just comes down to using proper judgment. Remember to keep staying informed and aware, and remain vigilant in getting the right information.