Editorial: Fake News Threatens Teen Minds


Written by Grace Robinson and Sarah Snare

The professional news media has always been one of the most trusted sources of information, but the new trend of “fake news,” false headlines that look legitimate, has led to increased skepticism of journalism as a whole.

Facebook and Twitter have been harshly criticized for allowing fake news stories to run unchecked on users’ pages, but the social media corporations are not to blame. It is nearly impossible to double-check
the accuracy of all the posts and shares of all 1.79 billion Facebook users or 317 million Twitter accounts. Monitoring procedures should be in place, but it is ultimately the responsibility of the readers to be mindful about what they choose to believe.

Fake news is unreliable, misleading and harmful to both the political and social intelligence of upcoming generations. However, teenagers have lost the discipline and awareness to verify the news stories they see amidst the tweets and Facebook posts scrolling on their timelines.

We, as editors and four-year journalism students, even fell victim to fake news in our research for this  editorial. In a Google search for a headline, the first result appeared to be from ABC News, a trusted, well-known, professional news platform.

However, when we clicked on the headline, it was blocked by the school server.
“It’s ABC News!” we said. “Why is it blocked?”  The link was actually to abcnews.com.co, a fake news website made to look like a genuine, reliable one. One tip when surfing online is to pay attention to the web address. The “.co” added to the end of the URL, such as the one we ran into, means the source is not to be trusted.

Other checks to keep in mind when verifying the credibility of a source include looking for cited references within the story, determining qualifications of the author, and further research of the topic.

Just as a student would include in-text citations in a research paper, journalists should be crediting the sources of their information as well, whether it be through the attribution of quotes and statistics or a  direct link to another web page. If you are unsure about the reliability of an article, take a look at the sources the author is acknowledging. An obscurely-named organization, an unidentified speaker, or a lack of sources at all could indicate that the story is untrustworthy.

If the sources check out, take a look at who wrote the story. Check for their qualifications: highest level of education, work experience, if their field of study is relevant to the topic they are writing about. If the author of a story is only identified by a username or not named at all, the source is potentially unreliable.

The easiest way to verify a story you read online is to explore further. Type the headline into Google to see if you can find a reliable news source covering the same topic.

Students just need to stop being so trusting of the screens in front of them. As the upcoming generation of working adults, it is our responsibility to uphold the dignity of the American people and the validity of professional journalism.

Don’t believe everything you see or hear. Be skeptical. Take initiative and question the world around you.