Our View: Student journalists bear burden of fake news

As President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration approaches, journalism has been through the wringer. In the latest attack against the printing press, a slew of websites have been peddling made-up stories dressed in legitimate clothing. These fake news stories have helped media critics turn up the volume on their diatribes and put the industry on the chopping block — a worrying development for the future of a free press.

As journalists-in-training, we are taught how to be diligent while reporting. Each piece of information must be verified, no matter how trustworthy the source may seem. The professors at Kent State’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication have prepared us to be wary of what people say to us and the documents we review. Professors have even been known to say, “If your mother tells you she loves you, ask your father.”

In other words, be skeptical.

Social media companies such as Facebook have already started talking of monitoring which sites they feel post fake news. This runs dangerously close to a chilling of the First Amendment and a curtailing of the free flow of information online.

While we should not agree with the philosophies of fake news outlets, we can’t try to quell the speech of others online. What is needed is a much easier, less intrusive solution to the problem of fake news.

JMC’s journalists-to-be are taught how important it is to be media literate, but this tenacity at critical thought needs to expand into the entire student body.

It is up to you, the news media consumer, to consume news online with caution. What is the URL of the original source? Is it legitimate and credible site? What agendas does the site serve? Who is this writer and what other material has he or she written?

This skill is far above the partisan bickering seen on most Facebook feeds. It needs to be embedded in news consumers’ habits, no matter what side of the aisle they want to toss their hat.