12/21/16 - Fake News - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

12/21/16 - Fake News

By Scott Thomas
KFVS12 Vice President and General Manager

My mother always said, “you don’t want to be known as the town gossip,” or the one that spreads tall tales, rumors, or pulls a hoax.

For journalists, following mom’s advice means not getting a name for spreading yellow journalism, tabloid news, or more recent, fake news. All terms we’ve heard used to describe stories that are inaccurate, one sided, or purposely slanted. Despite the immense amount of fake news in social media making headlines today, this is not a new issue. The term "yellow journalism" is right out of history books from more than 100 years ago. Fake news is the recent buzzword. Both refer to attempts to get more viewers, listeners, or “likes” regardless of whether a story is true. Fake news, the latest online version of yellow journalism, is becoming a major concern because of the impact on innocent individuals.

Just last week, KFVS12 felt the need to report a story that a meteorite causing a fire in Southern Illinois was FALSE, due to the concern that it could cause panic in the wake of the Gatlinburg fires. Three weeks ago, because of a fake news story, a man entered a Washington D.C. restaurant with an assault rifle. He is now facing federal charges. 

These fake news stories are having dangerous consequences. Two thirds of American adults believe fake news stories cause a great deal of confusion and unnecessary stress. So, we need to think twice before we hit share, even if the article agrees with our opinion.  If you don’t know if it’s true, don’t share it. It’s a matter of credibility. Do you want to be respected for your viewpoint? Or do you want to become someone who’s integrity is questioned? If you’re unsure on whether you should share a story or not, we suggest you start with the question, “Is it the truth?” If it’s not true, don’t share it.  If keeping people safe isn’t enough of a reason to not hit share, at least listen to your mother and don’t be a gossip.

I’m Scott Thomas and that’s our ViewPoint.

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