Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

THE REAL THREAT OF FAKE NEWS; Salacious or Gossipy Clickbait Can Undermine Democracy, Legitimate Journalism

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

THE REAL THREAT OF FAKE NEWS; Salacious or Gossipy Clickbait Can Undermine Democracy, Legitimate Journalism

Article excerpt

Byline: Frank Denton

You don't knowingly put contaminants in your body, so why would you put them in your brain?

Well, you probably don't as much as other people, given that you're a newspaper reader. And when you do, you may not even know you're doing it.

There you are, online, working or looking for something or killing time, and an uninvited news item pops up, seizes your attention and won't let go - a headline that teases or provokes you, maybe with a tempting photo. You so want to believe it, because it's juicy or it confirms your political bias, so you click through and read it, and it plants itself in your brain, for the duration.

The problem is that it's absolutely untrue, a deliberate lie.

The seemingly salacious or gossipy ones used to be called clickbait, and after you checked out a few of them and were disappointed, you thought you wouldn't be fooled again. But now they've gotten slicker, with sensational, often political items that could be factual and are presented in a format that looks and feels legitimate. Now it's called fake news.

Some of it is political, especially during the presidential campaign and transition, and some of it is simply to make money for an unscrupulous someone. A large national survey released last week found that fake news headlines fool adults about 75 percent of the time.

"Megyn Kelly Gone at 45!," reported one on my screen last week. "America's favorite news reporter left us to soon ..."

The misspelling of "to" was the giveaway, but I clicked through to see whether this one was political or commercial. The item, ostensibly from a People-like magazine and illustrated by a photo of Kelly with a plunging neckline, said "we hear" that Kelly's Fox producers and advertisers want her gone because she insists on using her own cosmetics, rather than her advertisers'. …

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