iLocal News Archives

The Editor Speaks: Fake News

colin-wilsonweb2We used to have Fake News here in the Cayman Islands except it was called “News On The Marl Road”. Occasionally there was a grain of truth in it.

Move on twenty/ thirty years and websites are popping up all over the place with Fake News and it is hard sometimes to tell the difference.

If one is in doubt you can go to a website called “Snopes”.

As Business Insider points out in an article today “Snopes says fake news isn’t the problem — the media is: Snopes has made its business out of correcting the misunderstood satire, malicious falsehoods, and poorly informed gossip that echoes across the internet — and that business is booming. Traffic jumped 85 percent over the past year to 13.6 million unique visitors in October, according to comScore. The site supports itself through advertising, and in the last three years it has made enough money to quadruple the size of its staff.”

The article by Jessi Hempel from Backchannel starts off by saying: “The day after the election, news began swirling around social media that New York Times columnist David Brooks had called for President-elect Donald Trump’s assassination. Snopes managing editor Brooke Binkowski had a feeling it was fake. Because, come on now, would a prominent columnist for a reputable news outlet really make that kind of comment?

“Sure enough, a bit of Snopes reporting revealed that Brooks had written a column saying Trump would likely resign or be impeached within a year. A news item published on The Rightists claimed Brooks had then said in an interview for KYRQ Radio New York that Trump should be killed. Snopes found The Rightists doesn’t even pretend to traffic in truth. In the site’s “about” section, it describes itself this way: “This is HYBRID site of news and satire. part [sic] of our stories already happens, part, not yet. NOT all of our stories are true!” What’s more, the story’s facts didn’t add up. For example, the site claimed Brooks had made the comments on a radio station — KYRQ — that didn’t exist.

“Verdict: FALSE.”

The article goes on to quote Brooke Binkowski, Snopes managing editor as saying, “Facebook’s perpetuation of phony news is not to blame for our epidemic of misinformation. ‘It’s not social media that’s the problem,’ she says emphatically. ‘People are looking for somebody to pick on. The alt-rights have been empowered and that’s not going to go away anytime soon. But they also have always been around.’

“The misinformation crisis, according to Binkowski, stems from something more pernicious. In the past, the sources of accurate information were recognizable enough that phony news was relatively easy for a discerning reader to identify and discredit. The problem, Binkowski believes, is that the public has lost faith in the media broadly — therefore no media outlet is considered credible any longer. The reasons are familiar: as the business of news has grown tougher, many outlets have been stripped of the resources they need for journalists to do their jobs correctly. ‘When you’re on your fifth story of the day and there’s no editor because the editor’s been fired and there’s no fact checker so you have to Google it yourself and you don’t have access to any academic journals or anything like that, you will screw stories up,’ she says.”

I believe Binkowski is right but there is also something else. The way the so called big reputable news outlets report the true news, or I should say slant it. It’s how they edit and omit the true news and the Clinton/Trump campaign highlighted it.

These news outlets were at least 80% pro Clinton and they seemed to forget that we actually watched the debates live on television and thousands were present at the campaigns.

Not even close did the news reports show it exactly as it happened. They were cut and pasted together out of context and audio bleeps were put over lips that mouthed words but didn’t actually audibly say it at the time. Even applause was added in places it didn’t happen

It was utterly appalling.

And now we don’t believe 100% anything we read, nor do we believe what we see on television unless it’s actually live. Today, that has become a rarity. Such a rarity that the news editors forget that occasionally what they have shown us on the news at 6PM, we actually saw it live.

Fake news was meant to be fun because we knew it was fake. The problem now is we can’t tell the difference.

I did enjoy The Marl Road.


  1. A good introductory article that touches the tip of the iceberg. In this misinformation and disinformation age to what extent has it crept into our local media print and practice? Two antidotes I usually use (involves quite a bit of time) are specialised search engines and other (non-USA) news articles in English and French. Hopefully the rise of quality ‘fact checkers’ will continue.



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