- For all things good and holy in this world, actually read the article. Or at least the first few paragraphs. Don’t be the guy that just reads the click-bait headline. In addition to actually maybe learning something if it turns out to be a legit site, it’s a lot easier to tell if a Macedonian teenager is taking you for a ride (and confirming The World’s suspicions that Americans are gullible) if you go to the website.
- Are there a lot of spelling or grammatical errors? I know everyone gave Gawker and Jezebel and Deadspin hell because they’d misspell a word or not correctly match their subject and verb correctly every now and then, but these fake news sites are rife with errors. If you can’t read the article in a fluid manner, I’ll eat my slipper if it’s a legit site.
- After you read the article, click on a few other areas of the site. Go see what other stories they have up. If a site is half finished, or there are a lot of blank pages, or pages with error messages, chances are you are on a fake site, my friend. On occasion, things go down. But no one not selling you some ocean front property in Arizona – and I am confident in this blanket statement – lets a website go live with half of it unfinished.
- I get that when you share things on the social media network or email list of your choice, you are necessarily cherry-picking. However, for your own edification, it’s good to branch out every now and then. Every so often, Mother Jones actually comes up with some great reporting. Most of the time, though, as satisfying as it can be to settle in to the legitimizing vortex of self-same articles, it’s not really a great purveyor of information on the world. Same goes for you, Breitbart and Infowars readers. Though, Mother Jones doesn’t advocate for anti-Semitism and racism and misogyny, so if you’re going to be stuck in an opinion circle jerk, go with MJ. Just throw in some Wall Street Journal for some reality and financial markets news.
There’s so damn much information out there these days – literally I can sit at dinner with three couples who know each other from back home in Indiana and now they all live in Arizona, and I can find on Google Maps one woman’s sister’s house in the subdivision I grew up in with two key pieces of information that aren’t her address. But just because there’s something out there that fits nicely in with your worldview doesn’t make it true. Good journalists mandate at least two independent sources confirm information before they’ll entertain it. It’s a pretty good rule of thumb for the rest of us, too. If something is true, that information will not only show up on Buzzfeed or Bustle or Cracked; it will be a headline on the Washington Post or LA Times or Chicago Tribune. If you must, and I’m holding my nose as I type this, even check Fox News; Megyn Kelly seems to be on somewhat of a roll with her ethics. Even better, purchase an online subscription to a newspaper, or support your local NPR station. Real news and real journalism aren’t free, and those same outlets that were chasing butterflies in the outfield this election cycle can hire better people who will actually keep their eye on the ball if we pay for what we consume.
Otherwise we’ll be stuck with fake news, to go with our
fake tyrannical government.