More notes at http://tanguay.info/learntracker
C O U R S E 
Fake News, Facts, and Alternative Facts
Josh Pasek, University of Michigan
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Accuracy in the Digital Era
Notes taken on August 31, 2018 by Edward Tanguay
editors play an important role in how news gets created
many of the other forms of news online and on television today, don't have the same level of editorial norms
e.g. on a blog or a non-traditional news site
might be based on a similar editorial process
but it very well may also simply be written by an unprofessional someone who simply has some particular opinion and wants to sway others' opinions with it
figuring out which is which is going to be necessary in determining how believable various news that one reads is, and in assessing the accuracy in any given piece of news
editors take a look at what journalists bring in
they check that it's accurate
they ensure that the information being printed is the best information that can be printed
they limit what it is that ends up coming across to people at the end of the day
thirty, forty years ago
if you wanted to watch news on television, you had three options: ABC, NBC or CBS
it didn't make sense at that time to make one news for this group of people, and another news for this other group of people
that news is uniformly expense to produce and disseminate
you had to be a large organization
rights to broadcast
distribute to a large part of a population
you have to say credible
in the contemporary era
in the 1999s with cable
cable news
in the 2000s with the Internet
many places to get news
the implications
when you want to see news today, you are not necessarily going to see news created for people in a region, or nationally
the news you see might be created by a smaller outlet
may be created by an outlet that has an interest in taking a partisan side to an issue
journalism has changed
20 years ago
you were working in one of these big newsrooms, underneath an editor
you were being paid by the newsroom
relatively few journalists in a given area
you were generally covering news with a high degree of professional ethics
if you want to produce a story that looks like news stories of the past
it's not going to cost you very much
to get a lot of people to see what you have written
this distinction ends up being critical here
if anyone can take on the role of watching what's happening and take on the role of being a citizen journalist, you're going to end up with some systemic changes in the media environment
these aren't all bad changes, the positive:
there is now news that caters to different groups of people in society
news is no longer as homogenous, and no longer as racially white or upper-middle-class as it used to be
but these changes also come with a change in norms and a change in editorship
instead of news organizations that take the core responsibility for determining what it is that is quality versus what is not quality news, basically everything today is going to get published
the challenge that this initiates is that instead of being able to rely on an editor to figure out what's high quality, well-researched news or not, this is now your job
you have to figure out what is quality, what's worth attending to, what's serious information and what is not
this is the challenge now leverages on the consumer of news, that wasn't there previously
un-fact-checked articles can serve as core stories in a news outlet today
CNN allows i-reports allows anybody to upload a video of whatever is going on
this is a democratization in that it allows more people to be part of the news making process
but this also fundamentally shifts the burden from professionals to amateurs
and functionally shifts how what people need to figure out what is worthwhile and what is not, from the producers of news to the consumer of news
social media than compounds this problem
instead of you choosing and going too a news source to get your news, now news is coming to you
more and more news we encounter is being shown to us as we scroll through our Facebook feed to figure out who's birthday it is today and what people in our lives did that was interesting
and what we find there is often not high quality, researched, news from sites that sometimes provide useful news, but will also provide news that is not backed up by the journalistic evidence that was the norm in the past
but when that news is presented by and therefore endorsed by one of your friends, that piece of media has additional credibility
another issue is click-bait
if you look at the news headlines in your Facebook feed, they don't look like headlines did 10 or 20 years ago
they are designed to encourage you to click
it's a simple advertising revenue model where these news organizations want to draw you to their webpage and because you will see the ads from companies that have paid to be on their web page
if the news that gets shared is the most click-worthy, the newsmaker has the incentive to make the most absurd, attractive, and stimulating headline possible with the goal of piquing your interest and getting you to go there
the necessity to maintain a journalistic reputation is the reason why large news outlets tend to produce high-quality and accurate news
but if you are a news site that may not exist next week and simply want to make profits as long as you exist, then you have little incentive to maintain a journalistic reputation, and hence will print anything that draws visitors to your site
today we have many smaller media outlets that don't have high cost productions and that don't have journalistic reputations to maintain
they are largely sharing their content via social media
this means that what gets into people's heads is not necessarily what is the most accurate, but what is the most shared, the most sensational, and what draws the most attention
the most significant change that our media landscape has undergone in the last few decades is that the burden of deciding what is accurate news has shifted from professional news organizations to the individual consumers themselves, and often these choices are decided by their friends who decide to share this or that news article on social media
we have to be critical of our friends and family now, and hold them accountable for sharing news that is well-researched, objective-reality-based, and accurate