Fake News Awards Highlight Distrust in News Media, Students Respond

by Gwyneth Navey

On Jan. 17 the Republican National Committee announced on their website the winners of the first ever “Fake News Awards.” The awards were created by President Trump himself and included 10 news articles that were falsely reported by various news outlets and reporters, plus a bonus award for all media attention given to the Trump campaign’s collusion with Russia, or what the GOP site called, “perhaps the greatest hoax perpetrated on the American people.”
The articles included in the list were from major news outlets like The Washington Post, The New York Times, Newsweek, Time Magazine and ABC News, but CNN took the cake winning four separate awards. According to Politifact, the list included stories that never made it past social media before they were retracted as well as articles that were later retracted, edited, apologized for and that often had serious consequences for the
reporters. Following the list of awards was a list of 10 accomplishments of the president that the site claimed were not getting enough coverage.

 

While many late-night talk show hosts and celebrities mockingly campaigned for the
event, such as “The Daily Show’s” Trevor Noah who bought a full page ad in The New York Times, many criticised the awards ceremony as a direct attack on free press. 2016 presidential candidate Evan McMullin co-authored an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times deeming the awards a direct attack on the First Amendment, and Republican senators Jeff Flake and John McCain named the president’s attacks on fake news “unwarranted” and catalysts for other countries to “silence and shutter one of the key pillars of
democracy.”

 

A study done by the Knight Foundation on the level of trust Americans have for current news media and the effects that trust has on our democracy found that although most Americans believe that news media plays an important role in democracy, they do not believe that news media is currently fulfilling that role. The Collegian reached out to students on campus to ask them questions regarding this issue as well as other topics in the study such as how well students believe they can sort fake news from objective news and what students’ definitions of “fake news” really are.

 

Students generally aligned with the findings of the Knight Foundation study, mos claiming that the news media does serve an important role in democracy, but that the current news media only fulfills that role “in some ways” or not at all. Though students were almost always confident in their abilities to sort objective news from biased news, students were unsure of their definitions of “fake news.” One student stated that she considers fake news to be any news that “doesn’t sound right” or that “goes against what I believe or my morals.” Another said that news must come from a “well-known news site” for them to trust it. Another stated that fake news is any news with “an agenda or a bias towards one side or the other.” When asked to name one objective news source off the top of their heads, students’ answers were varied as well, ranging from fairly moderate news sources such as The New York Times, ABC News and the Associated Press to further right-leaning programs such as Fox News. One student noted about ABC and Fox News, “I like that on [those] news stations, they always have debates on the
topics going one, so I feel like it’s normally reputable.”
In general, students’ answers aligned with the Knights Foundation’s findings. Though students are aware of the issue of “fake news” and its implications, students do not agree on the definition of fake news or which news outlets are trustworthy. Readers deeming news sources that do not align with their existing beliefs “fake news” is a growing issue and was a common critique of Trump’s Fake News Awards by reporters and celebrities, citing the fact that all of the fake news awards were awarded to articles that painted President Trump in an unflattering light. “Fake news” has become a hot-button issue that has greatly affected the reputation of news media and will surely continue to affect its reputation in the future across the nation and on Greensboro College’s campus. But, the question remains, will we ever really know what “fake news” is or what that means for the press?

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