Fake news sites less obvious than grocery store tabloids

Published 10:31 am Monday, December 12, 2016

I posted a political cartoon on my Facebook page the other day of two people looking at their phones and wishing there was some way to avoid all of the “fake” news sites online, with a newspaper box sitting next to them.

It drew a couple comments that even newspapers aren’t always “real.”

The issue with these fake, or satire (ones that aren’t obvious about it, unlike The Onion which I love for a good laugh) site, is much of the time, the entire story is made up. It’s not just leaning to one side or unbalanced, it’s just fake.

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There are larger newspapers out there that could be labeled as leaning to the left or to the right, based on their editorials. But editorials are opinion pieces, not fact, and are obvious that they are just someone’s thoughts.

There can be errors in stories. There can be, and often are typos. Some stories may even be slightly biased by the author who hasn’t learned how to keep his or her own opinions out of the tone of a story.

However, what you read in the news section of most local and regional newspapers is at least true.

I remember my grandmother always buying the “newspapers” at the checkout in the grocery store that had stories like “Clinton adopts an alien baby.”

I’m not even sure if those newspapers had any kind of disclaimers somewhere informing people the stories were for “entertainment only.” It seemed people didn’t need to be told that. Oh sure, there are some who may have believed those papers but they’re probably the same people who believe the U.S. Government is hiding an alien research center under Kentucky somewhere.

People just seemed to use common sense. But in fairness, those stories were so bizarre it was pretty easy to tell they were made up.

The danger in many of these online “fake” news sites is that they seem real. The stories are geared to trick people and they do a pretty good job.

This weekend I read an article that pointed out some good reasons why the policing of fake new sites need to be done by citizens, by calling them out or simply making an effort to educate people on how to avoid being fooled by them. Those politicians or celebrities can try to sue them, which has and hasn’t worked out well for either side.

–––But as annoying as these sites can be, they seem to be protected under the First Amendment. I’d hate to see some committee formed that goes on a witch-hunt to decide which news source is legitimate, which is “fake,” which are “real.” Can you imagine what a mess that would be if anyone on that committee leans to the left, or the right, or to somewhere way above our heads?

I imagine it will get sorted out eventually, but in the meantime, pick up a newspaper or turn on your television and watch the evening news.

And for some giggles, pick up one of those tabloids with a headline claiming Bigfoot was found living in Florida … sometimes fake is way more entertaining than the “real” news these days.

alyssa schnugg is Senior Writer at the EAGLE. Write to her at alyssa.schnugg@oxfordeagle.com