“And that’s the way it is.”
This is how Walter Cronkite signed off at the completion of his CBS Evening Newscast, which he anchored from 1962 until 1981. Widely recognized as a trusted source to deliver the news, Cronkite was known for his honesty and impartiality.1
These days, it’s hard to find impartiality. Many cable news channels tend to tilt either liberal or conservative, and it can be difficult to differentiate between which shows report the news and which shows merely discuss the day’s news from different viewpoints.
This is one of the reasons why it can be difficult to make financial or economic decisions based on what we hear on “the news.” To get a more complete perspective, it’s a good idea to read newspapers as well as articles on the internet and discuss how the news impacts your particular situation with an experienced professional. If you’d like some assistance in assessing your retirement income strategy, we’re here to help.
However, it’s also helpful to keep a few guidelines in mind when it comes to evaluating what is real news and what may be a skewed opinion. Earlier this year, Pew Research Center conducted an experiment in which researchers presented five statements of fact and five stated opinions to more than 5,000 adults. As it turns out, only 26 percent of respondents were able to correctly identify which of the statements constituted actual facts. In contrast, 35 percent of participants misidentified the five opinions as facts.2
In addition to televised newscasts, the internet constantly generates a wide array of “news stories” — some based on fact and some completely made up for the purpose of getting readers to click on their links. In some cases, headlines may be provocative and misleading — but the underlying articles are factually based. Note that headlines are generally created by an editor, not the writer of the article, with the singular intent of provoking a reader to click on the full article — thus exposing him or her to more advertisers.
We are currently at a crossroads in which the internet is unregulated, which means that there is no central, standardized regulating body that controls the flow of information across online media and social media outlets. Some websites provide content by legitimate journalists, while others post “user-generated” content, where anyone with an opinion can publish an article. Journalistic standards, such as those taught in journalism school, are not generally observed or heeded across all media outlets.
In response to our new culture of “fake news,” “alternative facts” and willful disinformation, social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter have launched efforts to fact-check information shares on their platforms. Facebook recently announced that it now has 27 fact-checking partners across the world that use various tools to analyze pictures and videos to help identify and remove false content. Both Facebook and Twitter also rely on users to report shared content that is false or abusive.3
These efforts come in the wake of the vast spread of disinformation across websites. A recent study revealed that Facebook users were exposed to “fake news” articles generated from 570 sites up until and just shortly after the 2016 U.S. presidential election.4
Also, be aware that quiz answers, videos, shared posts, “likes” and comments are used to help develop data profiles about each user, which are in turn sold to advertisers for better targeted marketing messages.5 It’s important for users to become better educated about how their information is compiled and used to help mitigate the spread of false information.6
Content prepared by Kara Stefan Communications.
1 Biography.com. “Walter Cronkite Biography.” https://www.biography.com/people/walter-cronkite-9262057. Accessed Sept. 16, 2018.
2 David Bauder. Associated Press. Aug. 16, 2018. “As our media environment blurs, confusion often reigns.” https://apnews.com/127fe8b09ae74a57826ab5953922e711. Accessed Sept. 14, 2018.
3 Edward Alvarez. Engadget. Sept. 13, 2018. “Facebook is fact-checking photos and videos to fight fake news.” https://www.engadget.com/2018/09/13/facebook-fake-news-pictures-videos-fact-checking/. Accessed Sept. 16, 2018.
4 Will Oremus. Slate.com. Sept. 14, 2018. “Facebook’s Crackdown on Misinformation Might Actually Be Working.” https://slate.com/technology/2018/09/facebook-fake-news-getting-better-study.html. Accessed Sept. 16, 2018.
5 Knowledge@Wharton. Sept. 6, 2018. “Advertising in Crisis: How the Turmoil Threatens All Media.” http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/auletta-frenemies/. Accessed Sept. 16, 2018.
6 Lion Gu, Vladimir Kropotov, Fyodor Yarochkin, Jonathan Leopando and John Estialbo. Trend Micro. June 13, 2017. “Fake News and Cyber Propaganda: The Use and Abuse of Social Media.” https://www.trendmicro.com/vinfo/us/security/news/cybercrime-and-digital-threats/fake-news-cyber-propaganda-the-abuse-of-social-media. Accessed Sept. 16, 2018.
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The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.