Professor Mark Grabowski
What is fake news?
• Stories that look like real news stories but are
hoaxes, propaganda, and disinformation.
• Fake news typically appears on websites that
look professional. The stories often relate to
topics and people who are trending on Google
and Facebook. The stories usually have
outrageous headlines designed to get people
Why spread fake news?
• Sometimes these stories are created to attract an
audience and the advertising revenues that come
with it. Sometimes these stories are published to
harm someone’s reputation.
Growing problem in recent years
• News is no longer monopolized by “legacy
media” – newspapers, TVs and radio.
• Anyone can start a blog and claim to be a
journalist. Most fake news comes from websites.
• Less librarians, who traditionally taught research
• Media literacy is no longer taught at many
schools. People are gullible and can’t distinguish
real news from fake, studies show. They view the
media as the monolith.
• Crazy presidential election numbed our sense of
shock. Truth was stranger than fiction.
• Fake news sometimes gets more views than
• Sometimes politicians and professional
journalists even quote fake news stories!
• Sometimes people engage in illegal and
violent behavior as a result of believing a fake
How to spot fake news
Determine where the info comes from
Looks can be
news sites often
try to mimic real
news sites. For
example, this one
may lead readers
to believe it’s from
may be OK …
Just because you haven’t heard of a news outlet or website
doesn’t necessarily mean it’s fake. These are all legit.
Pay attention to the URL
• Sites with such endings like .com.co should
make you raise your eyebrows and tip you off
that you need to dig around more to see if
they can be trusted.
• This is true even when the site looks
professional and has semi-recognizable logos.
For example, abcnews.com is a legitimate
news source, but abcnews.com.co is not,
despite its similar appearance.
looks a lot like
But, look closely.
All the news is
Read the “About Us” section
• Most sites will have a lot of information about
the news outlet, the company that runs it,
members of leadership, and the mission and
ethics statement behind an organization. The
language used here is straightforward. If it's
melodramatic and seems overblown, you
should be skeptical.
Also, you should be able to find out more
information about the media outlet in places
other than that site.
Examine the sources cited
• Does the story cite and quote credible sources: a
person with a first and last name and a title, such
as Mark Grabowski, professor at Adelphi
University, or Nicholas P. Episcopia, mayor of
• If not, or if they use anonymous sources or vague
references to sources, such as sources said,
according to reports, friends and family say, etc.
Popularity doesn’t equal reliability
• A top ranking on Google doesn’t mean an
article is trustworthy. The rankings are based
on several factors, including popularity.
• Just because it’s trending on social media
doesn’t mean it’s trustworthy. Fake news
stories often get more views than real news
Fake news stories that
go viral are often
exposed by such
websites as Snopes.com,
Following these sites on
Twitter and Facebook
will yield a steady
stream of informative
But, fake news lists are often wrong
• Wikipedia has a list of fake news sites, but it
includes some legitimate news sites, such as Vice,
Slate, The Blaze, Daily Beast. Anyone can edit
Wikipedia and sometimes its articles get
vandalized with false info.
• A communication professor created a fake news
list that was widely circulated, but it also contains
legitimate news sites. It appears the professor
had an axe to grind against certain sites.
“Almost everything about these sites is fake,” said David Vladeck, Director
of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The weight loss results, the
so-called investigations, the reporters, the consumer testimonials, and the
attempt to portray an objective, journalistic endeavor.
• Many countries do not offer the same press
freedom that the United States does. Media
that is not free and independent should be
• In China, many (but not all) media outlets are
government-run, such as Xinhua, CCTV, and
• Al Jazeera is owned by Qatar.
• Sometimes even trusted news outlets spread
fake news. Sources may lie to reporters.
Journalists may fabricate or exaggerate news.
Laziness and deadlines pressures can lead to
mistakes being made. Journalists sometimes
fall victims to pranks or hackers.
Stop getting your news from social media
Facebook is good for many things, but it’s not a news
source. Facebook’s job is to keep you clicking, and it
does that by tweaking your newsfeed so you only see
what you want to see. Go to Facebook to talk to
friends, but go elsewhere for your news.
Consumer a variety of media
• Some journalists and media outlets do a better
job than others at being impartial. But journalists
are only human, so they’re all at least a little
biased in some way.
• Some media outlets do a better job than other at
covering particular subjects, such as local news,
national politics and international news.
• So, be an eclectic news consumer. Don’t just read
the New York Times or just listen to Rush
Limbaugh. Consume a variety of media.
• But make sure it’s not fake news, of course!
Support good journalism
Ultimately consumers will be the gatekeepers by
deciding who gets clicks, retweets, shares and
which stories don’t get attention.
Do your own newsgathering
• Connect with your local community in person.
Social media and being “too busy” has given
us an excuse to stop talking to each other.
Talk to your neighbors. Talk to strangers while
in line at the grocery store. Get out of your
social media echo chamber and find out
what’s happening in the world. Educate
yourself through conversation.
About the presenter
• Mark Grabowski is a journalism professor at
Adelphi University in New York, a lawyer and a
syndicated columnist. For more info or to
contact him, visit markgrabowski.com.