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An Echo Press Editorial: The best way to deal with fake news

Instead of complaining about "fake news" and hurling insults about how unfair and biased the media are, readers should be paying more attention to where they are getting their news and what they are actually reading.

Granted, with so many purported news outlets out there, this is a more difficult task than it once was. These days, with so much information that's just a Google click away, it's tempting to believe whatever search result fits in with whatever you were hoping to find.

Those who come across a scandalous tidbit of so-called news about a political figure seem eager to pass it on, not making any effort to verify whether the information is accurate.

Before you do that, ask yourself some questions:

• Where is this information coming from? Is it a legitimate news outlet, one that you've actually heard of and that's been around for awhile? Or is it coming from someone blogging in their basement? Checking their website may provide some clues. If all of their information is skewed or sensationalistic, there's a good chance the information you came across is worthless.

• What exactly are you reading? Does the story carry a byline of an actual journalist? Is it a news story or is it labeled as "opinion," "letter to the editor," "commentary" or "analysis?" This one really trips people up, even readers of the Echo Press. Many times, the newspaper is accused of supporting some view that appeared in a commentary or letter. Readers add to the confusion by mislabeling what a "story" is, as in, "I can't believe the Echo Press printed such a one-sided, biased story about [fill in the blank]" when in fact, the "story" was a letter to the editor. Letters are often one-sided and yes, biased, since they reflect the opinion of the writer. News stories cite sources, give attributions, present different viewpoints and strive for balance. Big difference.

• Is this really true? Sometimes, the stuff that's disguised as news fits in so perfectly with a reader's negative perception of someone, they blindly accept it as fact. It's almost as if they are "wishing it" into truth. Take a photo-shopped picture of former President Obama engaged in a passionate kiss with UK Prime Minister David Cameron that's being circulated across Facebook with the caption, "Big Daddy O wants this picture removed from the Internet. Share the hell out of it!" It's completely fabricated — but too tempting for those who dislike Obama to dismiss. This cuts across all political viewpoints, of course. There are also plenty of manipulated images of President Trump, such as a fabricated photo showing Trump with his wife, Melania, and his alleged mistress, Stormy Daniels.

It all comes down to readers taking more responsibility. They shouldn't just swallow everything they come across and regurgitate it on Facebook as truth. They should take the time to verify the information. There are good fact-checking websites, such as snopes.com or factCheck.org.

If readers truly want to eliminate "fake news," they shouldn't perpetuate it, no matter how tempting it may be. Remember the wise proverb, "A lie can get halfway across the world before the truth gets its boots on."

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