The NNC has been discouraging the term ‘fake news’ for a long time now. Still, it’s difficult to push back against an easy term that has come to mean everything from an honest mistake, to the other guys’ opinion, to a fact that undercuts your preferred point of view.
Most dangerously, the term denigrates and strips away the important work journalists do.
The more accurate terms are misinformation, disinformation and mal-information. Over the past handful of years, a number of news literacy and journalism groups have been working to better define these terms and to describe how they work to manipulate or obscure facts.
FirstDraft recently updated its review of what it calls “information disorder” with a straightforward guide on breaking down misinformation.
A few key points to apply as journalists and news consumers:
- Use proper terminology. If there is an intent to mislead or manipulate, call it propaganda, a lie, conspiracy, a hoax, partisan content, manipulation, or polemic
- If it’s lazy, sloppy reporting that lacks accountability, the right label might be rumour or clickbait
- Misinformation might be more simply described as honest error, ranging from a typo to a mistake in a photo caption or fact
The NNC’s view is that a key way to fight the ‘fake news’ label is with accountable, credible journalism. One part of that is a commitment to find, acknowledge and correct any error as soon and as transparently as possible.