Today’s consumption of news and information can involve logging onto social media, reading a few short headlines and then considering yourself informed. However, these snippets of information don’t paint a complete, objective picture of a story or event.
Until recently, Facebook gave users the ability to modify headlines and body text in shared links. This often created a skewed point of view, subjecting casual readers to a potentially biased outlook on news. In the wake of this policy and, in turn, the fake news frenzy of the 2016 presidential election, it can be difficult to discern subjectivity.
This issue doesn’t only affect large-scale, national news — it has occurred locally as well. On Tuesday night, the Press & Sun-Bulletin ran the headline “Face Off in Mayor Race: Housing, crime hot topics,” but on the David’s campaign’s official Facebook page, the headline “Tarik Abdelazim backpedals on record in first mayoral debate” was used.
The new headline painted his opponent, Abdelazim, in a decidedly negative light, while the original article was an objective account of what occurred at the debate.
Regardless of which capacity this occurs in, whether on political news or in arts articles, we denounce the practice, and advocate for reading news on secondary sources, like social media, with a close eye. Whether it causes constituents to think differently about a candidate or a student to think differently about an event at the University, this practice creates a negative impact.
We encourage everyone to be a critical consumer — to take a closer look at all news and media in order to form your own opinions and thoughts. Many people were unaware of this practice on Facebook and other social media; use it and other subjective media practices as an incentive to dig deeper and search for the truth when staying informed.
It’s important to know how to search for the truth and be critical of the widespread news and information that seems to permeate every aspect of our world. For starters, although Facebook has recently changed its policy to ban changing headlines in shared links, it is useful to click on the full article and read it to draw your own conclusions and form your own thoughts. So-called click-bait articles also frequently use misleading headlines in order to entice readers into clicking on the link, but one can more accurately discern a click-bait article from a true news article by reading the full version instead of just the headline.
It’s also important to determine the source of data and facts in articles. Are they coming from information that is public or easily accessible? Will a quick Google search confirm or refute the information? If the answer is no, then the data is likely false. John Roby, a former investigative reporter for the Press & Sun-Bulletin, spoke at an event called “How to be a Truth Seeker” at the University Downtown Center last semester, encouraging attendees to develop a “data state of mind” when trying to determine the credibility of a story.
It’s unfortunate that we function in this kind of media climate, but our consumption of information will never stop. There is no way to guarantee that the media, politicians or people will always play fair. In order to separate the facts from the fiction, always practice critical consumption.