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The Fake News Era and Journalism

Seek truth and report it. Minimize Harm. Act Independently. Be Accountable and Transparent. These are the pillars of the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. The Fake News era has been a challenging time for all journalists. Many community members do not trust us. Some are unsure what to think about us...”the media”. Somehow the voice of the people has changed into an evil character. Fake News is false information that is not supported or qualified by facts. It is a defense mechanism used to deflect.

With the advent of social media and the COVID-19 pandemic, social media has been a critical tool to disseminate information, which is at the core of journalism. These platforms have been flooded with information. Some is real and verified. Other information is not. The algorithms were not ready for the tsunami of news that was about to hit them. Enter Fake News.

What is real? What is fake? Certainly where you stand colors your answer. But what if you could be fooled, tricked by a special interest or simply trolled? Robert Hernandez is an associate professor of professional practice at USC Annenberg, but he’s not an academic. He’s more of a “hackademic” and specializes in “MacGyvering” web journalism solutions. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at

Click bait headlines and false information lure consumers in and thus, make journalism seem incorrect or inaccurate.

The tech companies play a big role in this and as of late, they are trying to stop the spread of misinformation online. I think this is a partnership. Journalists need to continue reporting the truth and tech companies need to find ways to adjust their algorithm. However, there is one more piece to this puzzle. The consumer. We need to start teaching media literacy. From a young age, people are flooded with news, posts, likes, comments, shares, etc. How do you deal with this? What is right and wrong? Am I just staying in my little social media bubble with everyone who agrees with my point of view?

Media literacy is a critical element to this battle between Fake News and Journalism. As media makers, it is our job to be on the front lines of this. Start small with your best friends. Ask them if they know what media literacy is or how to navigate social media. Help them to understand the tricks of the trade. Do the same with more friends or family members. If we all did this small step, more people could understand. That is how we regain trust.

What is fake news? Who can you trust and how do you know? Trust in the media has diminished significantly over the past several years, and yet the media plays a critical role in democracy. Lisa Cutter is a public relations professional turned legislator, and she has championed media and ethical communications in both of these roles. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.

A few quick tips for media literacy. First, analyze the source. Really dive into the outlet, who the reporters are, what their ethical guidelines are, and what their mission is. By doing this research, you can learn so much about the news you are reading. You can understand where the reporting falls short, where there is bias, or where the reporting thrives. This will help you pick out information from the article. The second tip is to jump outside of your comfort zone. Try to find sources that share the opposite opinions from you. This will push you out of your information bubble to help you understand opposing perspectives.

As a journalist, I want to report the truth and be accurate all of the time. I want to inform. I want to help. That is my goal and my pledge to you.

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