This post first appeared in the JRN200 course in the University of Arizona Global Campus.
Fake news is broadly defined as a story presented in credible-looking media that is not just written with false information but does so with the intent to influence readers 1 . These pieces are usually written with a tiny core of verifiable truth, but the interpretation and presentation deviates with fabrication or omission of pertinent features in order to manipulate ideologies. Take, for example, the Gateway Pundit article from November 14 with the headline, “Dr. Fauci admits vaccines did not work as advertised and that vaccinated are in great danger today” 2 , loosely drawn from Dr. Fauci’s interview with the New York Times on November 12 3 . The first major error is twisting Dr. Fauci’s words with an equivocation fallacy 4 , turning “need for boosters” into “failure to be at all effective” when discussing vaccines. The Gateway Pundit article also fails to mention that other coronaviruses are seasonal occurrences (“common colds” and stomach bugs) and do not confer long-term immunity after infection as a standard feature 5 , so any vaccine for any coronavirus will require regular boosters.
In the pilot episode of “the Newsroom” 6 , Jeff Daniels’ character Will McAvoy drops a bomb on a student who asks him why America is the greatest country by replying that it’s not. His argument is that perhaps it once was, but only when the public was informed by great minds and admired people for their intelligence instead of rejecting science and reason. The overall plot of the series examines ethical and moral standards of news reporting with integrity in a culture that rewards yellow journalism and fake news.
That integrity is what Filak is talking about when he says that media professionals matter more than ever and must make a commitment to deliver relevant, honest, truthful, and ethically sound news 7 . Producing that type of content requires sometimes considerable effort: fact-check constantly, triangulate verification with multiple sources, root out implicit bias, take nothing for granted. Journalists are not just responsible for protecting their reputations, they’re also creating an informed public.
Barbaro, M., Jimison, R., Nguyen, D., Cowett, P., Chow, L., Shaw, D., Powell, D., & Wood, C. (2021, November 12). An interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/12/podcasts/the-daily/anthony-fauci-vaccine-mandates-booster-shots.html
Edridge, A. W. D., Kaczorowska, J., Hoste, A. C. R., Bakker, M., Klein, M., Loens, K., Jebbink, M. F., Matser, A., Kinsella, C. M., Rueda, P., Ieven, M., Goossens, H., Prins, M., Sastre, P., Deijs, M., & van der Hoek, L. (2020). Seasonal coronavirus protective immunity is short-lasting. Nature Medicine, 26(11), 1691–1693. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-020-1083-1
Filak, V. F. (2021). Chapter 2: Being accurate, relying on the facts. In Dynamics of media writing (3rd ed., pp. 19–33). SAGE Publications, Inc. https://uaglobalcampus.vitalsource.com/books/9781544385662
Hoft, J. (2021, November 14). Dr. Fauci admits vaccines did not work as advertised and that vaccinated are in great danger today. The Gateway Pundit. https://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2021/11/dr-fauci-admits-vaccines-not-work-advertised-vaccinated-great-danger-today/
Kalsnes, B. (2018). Fake News. In Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Communication. Oxford Research Encyclopedias. https://doi.org/10.1093/acrefore/9780190228613.013.809
Madison, A. F. (2013, October 6). “Now we are free,” excerpt from S1:E1: We Just Decided To [Video recording]. HBO. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xXkQq1ChK0
Thompson, E. (2017, January 31). 15 logical fallacies you should know before getting into a debate. TheBestSchools.Org. https://thebestschools.org/magazine/15-logical-fallacies-know/