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Are newspapers providing readers with the truth?

Posted on December 15, 2016

 

National newspapers publish hundreds of stories each week and members of the public take time out to absorb the information they are presented with. They would naturally assume that what they are being given is factually accurate information that has been carefully planned and put together by a team of journalists and editors that want people to know what has happened in the world.

However, recently it seems as though some sources are reporting factually inaccurate stories. It also appears that it is the bigger and more ‘trustworthy’ news sources that are falling foul of publishing incorrect news stories.

Let’s use the following news story as an example:

The story that was reported was that the Brazilian football club, Chapecoense, that was involved in a tragic plane crash that killed the vast majority of its team last month, was fined by the Brazilian FA for failing to fulfil the final fixture of its league campaign.

This story has now been confirmed as being untrue. However, well-established national papers such as the Mirror, the Sun and the Daily Mail all reported on this story. Each of these papers are major players in the industry and have thousands, if not millions, of readers each day, both in physical and online formats. You would naturally therefore assume that they would report on facts that were set in stone. Furthermore, you would anticipate that they would at least check whether the story was untrue.

Once more, companies that are considered to be newer and based solely online are actually correcting the false news stories. In the example above, you can see at the bottom of the screenshot that Buzzfeed, a site that many people may view as a ‘clickbait’ source, has published an article correcting these large national papers with the headline “No, The Soccer Team That Lost 19 In A Plane Crash Won’t Be Fined…“. Myth-busting site Snopes.com also published an article correcting these newspapers.

Now that we know this particular story is indeed false, this makes you question whether or not these papers actually fact check their stories before publishing them. The Sun has since removed its article on the matter.

This is not the first instance of fake news stories being circulated in recent times. Social media giant, Facebook came under some heavy criticism earlier on in the year for showing large quantities of fake news stories.

Some blame this fake news circulation for the election of Donald Trump as President of the US. This is a problem that needs to be addressed, and a group of students presented a solution to combat the problem at an academic event in America. Furthermore, Google announced in October that it was going to change its News section by using external fact-checking sites to see if stories that appear in Google News are factually accurate.

You may think that publishing untrue stories is sloppy journalism and that these papers should not be publishing these types of stories, but when you think of it from a different aspect, these stories are the ones that draw in readers.

Stories that play on people’s emotions will more than likely attract readers to the articles. In this case, it may be horror and outrage that the team is facing a fine after experiencing such a tragedy that draw readers in to find out why this has happened. While this is good for the source to attract readers to the articles, it is not providing them with the truth that they expect to hear. This is traditionally a method used in advertising but with so many news articles now appearing online, maybe journalists are thinking that this is a way to ensure that they get the large audiences they used to expect when physical print was how we got our news.

What is interesting is that you would expect the smaller companies, like Snopes and Buzzfeed, to be the ones publishing the fake news with the national papers correcting them. It is also interesting that these outlets are actually going out of their way to actually correct other sources rather than just reporting the truth. This goes to show that “telling the truth sells” may not be the case anymore. With fake news stories now becoming rife, it is becoming harder for some people to know what to believe.

Alan Littler

Account Executive at Engage Web
Drawing from a broad pool of experience that ranges from university studies in English Language to his work as a medical receptionist in a busy GP practice, Alan fits right at home as Engage Web’s Account Executive.

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