Fake News, Satire, and User-Generated Content

FAKE NEWS

Fake news is exactly what it sounds like: untrue or inaccurate information disguised as actual journalistic content. Its purpose is almost always to deceive the reader, propagate disinformation, and often serve a political agenda. Fake news is not accurate, factual reporting which a particular person (regardless of status or position) dislikes or does not agree with. That is simply news. For example, an unflattering, but true story about me is news whether I am happy with it or not. 

Let’s take a look at a video explanation of what fake news is.

The British Broadcasting Corporation gives us a nice overview of the rising prominence of fake news and what some call “alternative facts.”


SATIRE

It is vital to differentiate between fake news and satire. Above, we took a close look at fake news and its almost-always intentionally mission to deceive or serve an agenda. Satire is different. It is created to entertain and to comedically offer a commentary on social issues of the day.

sat·ire/ˈsaˌtī(ə)r/ noun

the use of humor, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues. (Lexico Oxford Dictionary)

Here is a look at what Medium calls “The Five Best Satirical News Sites.” Check them out to get a feel for the satirical approach of addressing issues and its vast difference from fake news. 

Let’s take a look at a short video example from The Onion:


USER-GENERATED CONTENT (UGC)

Increasingly since the onset of the internet in news reporting in the early 2000s, journalistic organizations have been relying on average consumers to provide information related to topical issues. When a news organization’s readers, viewers, or consumers contribute to coverage, it is called user-generated content or UGC. This content is usually employed as a supplement to a news organization’s coverage of a story. For example, people who are on the scene of a breaking news story may shoot video with their phones and send it to CNN, who will show it on air, imbedded in their own reporting. This is effective in many cases because, especially when it comes to breaking news, UGC can get to a news organization more quickly than the news can get a reporter and photographer to the scene of a story.

While we are exploring the use of UGC in journalism, it is important to note that it is not exclusive to news. Consider platforms such as TikTok, which hosts only content created by its users. One can say the same of YouTube, Twitter, and other social media apps.

These platforms have not legal or even ethical obligation to be sure the information being presented is accurate, though some take steps to at least encourage the audience to do some independent research. News organizations, on the other hand, are obligated to the truth. Journalistic integrity, accuracy, and objectivity are essential parts of the news. Here is a look at how journalists verify user-generated content:

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