One thing that sprung out of the 2016 Presidential Election is the role that fake news played in the spread of misinformation, and potentially lead to the current disastrous result.
Sometimes this is because the editorial staff has a slant on an issue that they are actively pushing. But sometimes there’s simply bad reporting because it’s easier to do and can make you more successful than good reporting does. Even when addressing something as objective as science.
Think about it: a new study comes out, with a sweeping groundbreaking conclusion. There’s a press release that accompanies the study, if you’re a journalist do you:
- Only write about it if you, yourself, are an expert in the field, capable of digging into the details and evaluating it in the context of everything else known yourself?
- Consult with a slew of experts, assuming you’re not one yourself, to ensure you evaluate the release properly — as best you can — before you craft your narrative?
- Call a few people to interview them, writing down quotes, so that when you write about the study and its conclusion, you can add in either affirming or dissenting opinions from experts?
- Or do you simply write a catchy headline designed to highlight the new, spectacular conclusions, and base your story entirely on the press release?
Or if you want the TL;DR version watch this Last Week Tonight clip, where John Oliver explains how important it is to understand science.