Friday, March 22, 2019

Review: Fake News - Separating Truth From Fiction by Michael Miller


While popularized by President Donald Trump, the term "fake news" actually originated toward the end of the 19th century, in an era of rampant yellow journalism. Since then, it has come to encompass a broad universe of news stories and marketing strategies ranging from outright lies, propaganda, and conspiracy theories to hoaxes, opinion pieces, and satire—all facilitated and manipulated by social media platforms. This title explores journalistic and fact-checking standards, Constitutional protections, and real-world case studies, helping readers identify the mechanics, perpetrators, motives, and psychology of fake news. A final chapter explores methods for assessing and avoiding the spread of fake news.

What exactly is 'fake news'? Is it something we just don't like? Something that promotes conclusions contrary to our own opinions? What if something is partly true and partly false, is that fake news?

The term is tossed around so much these days, it is important for teens (and adults) to know exactly what that means, and more importantly, how to determine both the veracity and the weight of what they hear and read.

The opening pages start right off with an accusation made against Ted Cruz's father by the National Enquirer and promoted by Donald Trump, which turned out to be false: but which was believed by many, and could have swayed votes during the Presidential primary. That story effectively sums up both the way fake news can spread quickly, and the immediate and lasting effect it can have.

While the text is immediately engaging, though, the format is not. The pull-out quotes and red-framed boxes do not make up for the dense pages of text in between, which may turn many teens off. The trend in books chosen voluntarily seems to be that, while fiction books are getting thicker, nonfiction books are getting thinner, and the preponderance of small text makes this book seem thicker than it is. While that does not say anything about the quality of the book (and the quality is good!), it does tell us it may need to be hand-sold or assigned.

Once hooked, I think readers will keep going to the end. Some sections should be required reading for everyone: important distinctions such as the difference between reporters, pundits, and analysts. The Fairness Doctrine (how did I never learn about that in school?) versus Free Speech. Spotting fake news sites by their URLs. All this information is related in a much more interesting manner than the bland-looking pages imply.

All in all a solid purchase, and definitely timely: just be prepared to give it a few nudges before it starts circulating on its own!

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