How do we fact-check in a fake news world with Trump?

By Emma Campbell

Elm Staff Writer

Journalism, when done well, is synonymous with truth. There is no need to fact-check what is, by definition, already factual. However, President Trump and his woefully misinformed supporters’ ambivalent use of the term “fake” news has sparked a debate over a question that should not exist: how is the public meant to tell the difference between “fake” and “factual” journalism?

President Trump bragged about his apparent coining of the term during a press conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinistö on Oct. 2.

“I don’t even use fake anymore,” Trump said. “I call the fake news now corrupt news because fake isn’t tough enough. And I’m the one that came up with the term—I’m very proud of it, but I think I’m gonna switch it to corrupt news.”

News cannot be labeled “fake” or “factual” with merely a glance. There are steps that readers can take to ensure they are digesting information from legitimate sources.

Trump’s claim that he championed the term is, ironically, “fake news.” The credit goes to Buzzfeed News media editor Craig Silverman, who popularized the term while conducting a research project on internet rumors for Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism. For the record, this source was fact-checked using the list of techniques mentioned later in this article and was found to be reliable.

For a president who claims to have championed the term “fake news,” Trump certainly does not seem capable of telling the difference between reporting what is factual and what is not. None of this is accidental. Trump is a liar, and a practiced one at that.

At first, Trump’s accusations held weight. The president’s treatment of the press had never been so blatantly disrespectful, and journalists with integrity were scared even though they had no reason to be.

But Trump has cried “fake news” too often, to the point where it is on the verge of cliché. Trump feels backstabbed by the misusage of his favorite terminology, which is why he means to “switch…to corrupt news.”

News readers should make a habit of reading beyond the headline to combat clickbait, investigating supporting sources to see if the cited information supports the news story, researching the author’s credibility, and checking the date of the story to make sure the information is still relevant.

If Trump is correct, which he rarely is, and most major news sources are corrupt, then how are we expected to believe anything we read? Who fact-checks the fact-checkers?

Fact-checkers don’t need to be journalists. News is for and about the world at large, so why should the only people expected to sift through fake news and real news be those employed at viable newspapers, magazines, and television stations? Fact-checkers do not have to be reporters. However, they must be free of bias, and human beings never are. Before fact-checking a news source, consider your personal bias and identify how this might affect your judgment.

Goodness knows how often President Trump takes a deliberate step back from whatever typo-riddled tweet he is about to send to ask himself, “How is this display of my ill-informed bias-

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