Navigating #fakenews

At a PRSA Kansas meeting earlier this week, three local media experts discussed their insights on fake news. It sparked lively and interesting conversation before the panel even spoke.

Fake news is nothing new – it’s propaganda. By definition, propaganda is “information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote a political cause or point of view.”

The difficult part is people believe what they want to believe. Contributing to this is social and search algorithms that show users information similar to what they have viewed before,  making it easy to get a biased view of any topic.

Some fake news sites and stories are expertly written so it’s easy to be tricked.

How do you know what’s real and what’s not? Here’s what our experts said: 

  • Gauge how the headline or article made you feel. A strong emotional reaction (fear, hatred, anxiety) is a red flag.
  • Is there excessive punctuation? While excessive use of exclamation points seems commonplace in social and text messages, headlines should have minimal punctuation.
  • Check the url….really check it. Look in the address bar for the full website url. Many fake news sites look similar to “real” news, or have a similar name.
  • Does the website have missing contact information? Is it extremely busy or use lots of images? Does it take a long time to load? All suspicious.
  • If there’s an image, do a reverse look up on the image. Copy the url of the image and click the camera looking button on Google images and paste the url in the box.  Or download it to your computer, then upload the file to Google images. This will show you other sites that are using that image, or a similar one. You can make your own decision to determine if the photo is real, or has been manipulated in any way.
  • Double check facts on snopes.com, factcheck.org or politifact.com.

What if your organization is the topic of #fakenews?

Get in front of the story. If the media calls you, be responsive – good advice even if you aren’t chasing fake news.

What can you do to stop the spread of #fakenews or misleading information?

Read before you share and follow the tips above. Talk to your children about the difference between real information and misinformation and how to tell the difference.

Several schools are fighting against fake news, (including one in Kansas). A professor at Wichita State University will be writing a book about fake news and teaching a class on the subject in the fall.

Online access to grades – yay or nay?

a-grade

The ability to check my children’s grades online and the weekly emails from their teachers have made me feel like an enabler and contributed to the possibility of me being helicopter-ish.

It’s true. I like the “real-time” check on how my children are doing, and that I am “in the know” on what they are studying and if they have an upcoming test or not (because they sure don’t tell me.)

But here’s the rub. I get an email from a teacher about a vocabulary quiz on Friday. I feel like I need to ask my child “Did you know you have a quiz on Friday? Did you study? Where are the vocab words?”

In reality, my child should be responsible and pay attention in class and already know this. And he probably did. But if he didn’t, I have just saved him from a bad grade, a possible lesson in reality. Is anyone going to do that for him in college? Is his mommy going to remind him about finals when he is 20 years old? Or that he has that big presentation at work the next morning?

Let’s talk about the online grade card. It’s great. It’s better than only seeing your grade every nine weeks, like back in 1986. I can see every worksheet, quiz, test and project and the final grade. So if my child had an A in math, and then starts getting Ds and Fs on assignments, I will know right away and can talk to him to correct the problem.

On the other hand, shouldn’t my child be accountable and realize he is getting these not-so-great grades and make an effort HIMSELF? Without me telling him?

What if I see that his grades are slipping, but don’t say anything to him? Am I a horrible parent? I would assume he would know – do I just wait until he says something? Let him suffer the consequences? Tough love?

My head would say tough love, my heart would by breaking…

Update: Everyone is a winner.

IMG_6072After cleaning his room, I found this pile of medals outside my 12 year old’s room.

“What are these doing here?” I asked him.

“I don’t want them anymore,” he replied.

“You don’t want any of these? Why not?”

“There’s too many…”

This is exactly what I was talking about in this post. By awarding him a medal for “participating,” the medals mean nothing. Some of these medals are for winning, but because he got a medal whether he won or not, those medals are discarded just like the others.

Medals, ribbons and trophies meant something when I was a kid. It meant you performed better than the other kids. It meant you tried your best and was the best. It doesn’t matter if it’s the class spelling bee or a state-wide competition. The point is you worked hard, studied, trained, whatever…to earn that ribbon or medal. Only the select few were awarded them. And you were proud.

Fast forward to 2015: Kids don’t care about those awards because they’ve been taught that just by “participating” or “showing up,” they are deserving of something.

I’m not the only one with the “only winners get medals” mentality. A recent poll said 57 percent of Americans think only winners should be rewarded. But here’s where it gets interesting.  When respondents were broken down by age, younger respondents (those 18-24) liked the idea of participation trophies, while the older generations thought the opposite. Is it because that’s how the younger generation grew up?  Because that’s what we have taught them?

As I mentioned in my previous post, in the real world a reward for “showing up” or “doing your job” doesn’t exist. Why do we act like it does?