As we venture forward into the first year under our new administration, we are being inundated every day with headlines that frighten us. The journalists reporting these frightening headlines almost seem to be just as angry as those they want to inform. Perhaps it is because they are constantly pushed to the side by White House officials and their supporters. Recently, Jake Turx, White House correspondent for the small Orthodox Jewish publication Ami Magazine, experienced this firsthand. In an attempt to ask Trump what he intends to do about the 48 reported bomb threats on Jewish centers throughout the nation, he was told to “sit down” because he did not ask a “fair question.” When Turx tried to object to the completely irrelevant answer Trump did give, he was told “quiet, quiet, quiet,” and that he had lied when he told White House officials would be “straight and simple.” Trump then went on to say that Turx should have relied on the endorsement he received from Netanyahu, “instead of having to get up and ask a very insulting question like that.” He then concluded his diatribe by saying, “just shows you about the press, but that’s the way the press is.”
While it is not only Trump causing this doubt of the press’s efficacy, those who follow him blindly are reverberating his words to their families, their friends which then causes more people to doubt the press. In a press conference on Feb. 16, Trump said that he will be speaking directly to the people because what he calls “political media” is “dishonest.” However, often this may not even be real dishonesty; it may just be a news outlet which disagrees with him or exposes the factual inaccuracy of his staff’s statements. This seems to indirectly target liberal or left-leaning news outlets rather than address any of the wildly prejudiced reporting of conservative or right-leaning news outlets. But regardless of the political stance of any one publication, Gallup reported that as of Sept. 2016 only 32 percent of Americans had “trust or confidence in the mass media ‘to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly.’” How can we regain trust in the mass media? How can we assure ourselves that the information we are consuming is true, or even remotely unbiased?
National Public Radio released a list of checks that consumers can perform while reading or listening to news to determine its legitimacy:
- Pay attention to the domain or URL. Established news outlets own their websites and have a standard layout. However, websites with endings such as .com.co should be subject to deeper fact checking. The example NPR stated was that abcnews.com is a legitimate news site, while abcnews.com.co is not, despite its similar look.
- Read their “about us” section. Language in this section of a legitimate news source is straightforward and to the point. Language in less than legitimate news sources is usually overblown or flashy. Legitimate news sources will also have in-depth information about the company that runs it, leadership, its mission statement and what kind of ethics it upholds.
- Look at WHAT is quoted in a story. Most news sources quote other outlets and experts in the information that they are presenting in a story. If it’s a story on something particularly controversial or relevant to current events there will be a lot of quotations.
- Look at WHO is quoted in a story. Are those being quoted reputable? Can you evaluate their credibility through a quick Google search? If it is, it may have been quoted in other publications with its source also referenced.
- Check the comments. Many misleading stories are shared on various social media platforms with headlines that will grab a reader’s attention, but not entirely tell you of what the body of the article consists. NPR states that if people sharing these seemingly outrageous articles on places like Twitter and Facebook calling it out as untrue, it most likely is.
- Reverse image search. The photos in an article should be related to what the article is about. If the photos in an article don’t look as though they’re representative of what the article is about, put them through a reverse Google image search. Right click on the image and search for it in Google Images. If the picture appears in articles of various subject matter that aren’t like the article you found it in, it may not be the image it presents itself to be in that particular story.
This being said, journalists and the general industry of media and information should not give up simply because there are blocks in the road. Journalists must persevere and continue to work hard to inform the public with objective facts whenever they can.
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