The accuracy of information and its unbiased presentation can be listed among the most well-known principles of ethical journalism. There is no doubt that the failure to meet these requirements has a severe impact on the reputation of news agencies, online newspapers, blogs, and other sources. In spite of that, the dissemination of fake news still presents a widespread problem that undermines the credibility of mass media.
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The problem of fake news and their popularity is not a distinctive trait of the modern society. For instance, the first known examples of untrue news are related to the reinterpretation of the results of the Quadesh Battle in the thirteenth century BC (“Fake News” par. 4). Other prototypes of fake news can be found in any historical periods, and the goals of disinformation efforts have become more diverse with the development of online media.
The definitions of fake news may vary in details, but the common point is that fabricated news is always perceived as something negative and harming the credibility of news agencies or individuals. In the assigned reading, a comprehensive definition of fabricated news is presented. According to it, the discussed phenomenon is “a type of yellow journalism that consists of deliberate disinformation or hoaxes” spread via different information mediums (“Fake News” par. 1). As it is clear from this description, the emphasis is placed on the purposeful dissemination of false information.
The definition presented above is successful in reflecting the key features of fabricated news such as the presence of deliberate disinformation. However, in my opinion, it is extremely important to broaden the presented definition to include the fact that not all distributors of fake news do it knowingly. From popularity considerations, some news agencies or individual bloggers can review and cite fake news shared by other sources.
Apart from intentional lies, the failure to check the credibility of information can also be listed among the factors contributing to the dissemination of fake news. In addition, it is clear that fake messages differ according to the extent to which they use real news items, and I would also reflect it in my definition. This opinion is supported by Tandoc et al. who list “the level of facticity” among the key dimensions that help define fake news and its subtypes (137). Therefore, in order to make the definition of fake news more precise, it can be necessary to refer to its key types.
An important issue related to the definition of fabricated news is strictly interconnected with the classification of fake messages. In their study, Tandoc et al. review more than thirty academic articles to analyze the definitions and goals of fake news (138). According to their findings, the authors of high-quality articles tend to operationalize the term being discussed in the following ways: “satire, parody, fabrication, manipulation, propaganda, and advertising” (Tandoc et al. 141).
In my opinion, by using these goals of fake news, it is possible to improve an understanding of the term. In particular, when included in the definition, the six goals demonstrate that the use of incorrect information in the media is not always associated with propaganda and profit-making activities. In the majority of cases, the dissemination of fake news helps some interested parties to influence public opinion on different topics or get financial benefits. However, some agencies can generate fake news purposefully in order to ridicule controversial people or trends and, therefore, express opinions in a satirical form.
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The existence of agencies that use fabricated news for their own purposes runs counter to the majority of traditional American values. For instance, it is widely known that Americans value equality, competition, and ethics. The dissemination of fake news seems to be detrimental to media outlets’ equality in terms of responsibilities and rights. For instance, in 2017, many materials claiming that Melania Trump had a body double became extremely popular despite the absence of substantial evidence (Kosoff par. 3). The sources that published the unreliable conclusions were not required to disprove it or apologize, which indicates the presence of inequality.
The fact that some organizations use disinformation or exaggerations to attract more readers indicates that the principles of honest competition are often neglected. Among the most recent examples of news associated with dishonest competition are the attempts of some websites to shift the blame from Roy Moore accused of sexual contacts with underage girls to the victims (Kosoff par. 4). The same value refers to the case of Sean Spicer involved in the fabrication of news about the size of Trump’s inauguration crowd (Kosoff par. 8). Therefore, fabricated or changed facts are often used in the American mass media for political purposes.
Continuing on values, when it comes to ethical problems, high-profile scandals related to fabricated news often refer to the discussion of some people’s personal life and issues. It is possible that the only value that is reflected in the presence of agencies that use fake news is independence. However, this way of using independence and the freedom of information is the subject of public criticism.
To sum it up, the use of fabricated news can be listed among the most important problems at the confluence of journalism, the right to information, and ethics. Some problems related to the definition of the term include the need to acknowledge that disinformation can be unintentional and serve humoristic purposes. Despite that, the majority of cases with fake news involve willful deceits and political or financial advantages, which is contrary to many American values.
“Fake News.” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 2018. Web.
Kosoff, Maya. “The 6 Fakest Fake-News Stories of 2017.” Vanity Fair. 2018. Web.
Tando, Edson C., Jr, et al. “Defining ‘Fake News’: A Typology of Scholarly Definitions.” Digital Journalism, vol. 6, no. 2, 2018, pp. 137-153.