By Adam Dickson


“Fake News” – A term that has been widely used to describe media outlets and publications in the last few years, in the wake of Donald Trump. But, what does it mean and how can we define what makes real news in today’s current climate?

“How, in the future, are we to know the difference between truth, myth and lies?”

As our accessibility of getting online has become more available, with the increased smart phone user and social media platforms are more popular than ever, we have become subjected to false news reports and statistics and bombarded with clickbait news articles. Between Instagram, Twitter and Facebook all three platforms are now rife with fake news and clickbait posts.

Arguably, Facebook is the biggest offender of these crimes against journalism. Enticing titles, such as ‘click the link to find out more’, often leave readers deflated and disappointed with the lack of substance. Readers often satisfy their curiosity by reading the comments to get a basic outline of the story instead of clicking on the actual article to read.

Now, younger impressionable teenagers are using various social media sites. Are they taking these articles as gospel without fact-checking or doing more independent research? Are we becoming a nation that’s more interested in reading salacious gossip and celebrity news online rather than world events and issues?

Since some people now use social media as a main source of information about what’s going on, the results of this fake news and clickbait leave a large uninformed and sometimes mislead demographic in its wake who can’t tell the difference between what’s real and what’s false. This can have damaging effects on credible journalists who write genuine reports on a wide array of issues because the reader will just look at their phone or tablet and think it’s just more clickbait which isn’t worth reading. Thus, making it harder for credible journalism to gain a foothold online. According to the guardian “News media for most of the last century appeared to be one relatively simple business. Gather an audience by providing content, including news. Sell the attention of the audience to advertisers. The internet and its applications have brought that business undone.”

This can have damaging effects on the small minority of people who write genuine reports on a wide array of issues because nine times out of ten people will just look at their phone or tablet and think it’s just more clickbait which isn’t worth reading. Thus, making it harder for credible journalism to gain a foothold online. According to The Guardian “Australia’s two largest legacy media organisations recently announced big cuts to their journalistic staff.” Reaffirming the grip that social media has on the world of journalism. Many hard-working writers have now suffered due to the overwhelming amount of news that’s spread across social media today, and more often than not its untrue.

“Almost anyone can use the worldwide web to be a media outlet, so how will we differentiate between truth, myth and lies?”

In a separate article from The Guardian written by David Marsh in 2012 asks the question “What makes someone a journalist? As recently as 10 years ago, the answer would have been straightforward: journalists made their living by producing editorial material (written or otherwise) which was then published or broadcast to an audience of readers, listeners or viewers.” Almost 6 years ago this question was asked and since then the situation has further deteriorated leading to job losses in Australia because the digital age has killed typical journalism. Since then internet usage is at an all-time high and people have a platform to voice their own opinions and spreading what they think is news. “…there were concerns about the future of quality journalism: in short, who is going to pay for it?” in 2018 that statement has never been truer.

Some universities and colleges such as Leeds College of Art have now gone on the develop new courses which incorporate digital platforms and communication through social media as core concepts. For example, their ‘Fashion Branding with Communication’ describes the course to be one which focuses on online communication and social media branding. This integration of social media into education is a clear contribution to building its reputation as a credible and formal practice. This impression can ultimately grow and overflow into the discussion of journalism versus social media. If the public develop a sense of trust towards social media in terms of delivering news and informing, then this could lead to a decline in the volume of traditional news sites and journals accessed, due to the simple facts of popularity and ease of access for social media. Presenting people with their entertainment and formal news in one place, in between each other, demotivates them in wanting to go out and search further. Social media news may also offer a potentially damaging effect by their openness, as a study by Winter (2018) demonstrated how individuals often alter their own attitudes to the opinion climate visible in comments of other users on sites such as Facebook.