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Can You Trust the News?

Fake news stories are causing a crisis in America. So how can you tell what’s true ... and what’s a lie?

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images (Zombies); iStockPhoto/Getty Images (Tablet)

    Imagine that someone made up a terrible lie about you: that you had robbed a bank.
 
    Then imagine that this person wrote a whole story about it. He found a picture of you on Instagram. He posted this fake story and your photo on a website that sounded
very official. It was called American News.

    Soon, thousands of people believed you were a bank robber.
 
    Hopefully nobody would ever write a fake news story about you. But many experts believe that fake news has become a crisis in America.

    Imagine that someone made up a terrible lie about you: that you had robbed a bank.  

    Then imagine that this person wrote a whole story about it. He located a picture of you on Instagram, then posted this fake story—along with your photo—on a website with an official-sounding name, like American News. Soon, thousands of people believed you were a bank robber. 

    Hopefully nobody would ever write a fake news story about you. However, many experts believe that fake news has become a crisis in America. 

    Imagine someone told a lie about you. He said you had robbed a bank.  

    Then imagine he wrote a story about it. He found a photo of you on Instagram. He posted this fake story and your photo on a website. This website sounded official. It was called American News. 

    Soon, many people believed you were a bank robber. 

    Let’s hope no one ever writes a fake story about you. Still, experts worry about fake news. They think fake news has become a crisis in America. 

News You Can’t Trust

photka/Shutterstock.com (Phone); David Sucsy/Getty Images (White House); Aaron Foster/Getty Images (UFO's)

    During the past year, hundreds of fake news stories have spread across the internet. There was one story about presidential candidate Hillary Clinton selling guns to terrorists. There was another story about American soldiers going to fight a war with Russia. 

    These stories were lies. But many people believed they were true. The stories were shared many times. People posted them on Facebook. They emailed them to friends.

    Fake news stories hurt the people they are written about. What if people really did believe that you had robbed a bank? People wouldn’t trust you. If you applied for a job someday, you wouldn’t get hired.

    But fake news stories are also bad for all of us. “We have news we can’t trust,” says Michael Spikes from the Center for News Literacy. This is a group that helps students learn how to spot fake news stories. “We have no way to know what’s true and what’s not,” he says.

    During the past year, hundreds of fake news stories have spread across the internet. There was one story about presidential candidate Hillary Clinton selling guns to terrorists. There was another about American soldiers going to fight a war with Russia. 

    These stories were lies, but many people believed they were true. The stories were shared many times: People posted them on Facebook and emailed them to friends. 

    Fake news stories hurt the people they’re written about. What if people really did believe that you had robbed a bank? People wouldn’t trust you, and if you applied for a job someday, you wouldn’t get hired. 

    But fake news stories are also bad for all of us. “We have news we can’t trust,” says Michael Spikes from the Center for News Literacy, an organization that helps students learn how to spot fake news stories. “We have no way to know what’s true and what’s not.”

    In the past year, there have been hundreds of fake news stories. These stories are on the internet. One story said that presidential candidate Hillary Clinton sold guns to terrorists.

    Another said that America was going to war with Russia. 

    These stories were lies. But many people believed them. The stories were shared many times. People posted them on Facebook. They emailed them to friends. 

    Fake news stories hurt the people they are about. What if people believed you had robbed a bank? They wouldn’t trust you. One day you might apply for a job. You might not get hired.

    But fake news is also bad for all of us. “We have news we can’t trust,” says Michael Spikes from the Center for News Literacy. The Center helps students learn how to spot fake news stories. “We have no way to know what’s true and what’s not,” he says.

The Rise of Online News

    Not so long ago, most people learned about the news through just a few respected newspapers and TV news programs. Americans learned to trust news stories that were written mainly by professional journalists. 

    Journalists are people who report the news. They are trained to do careful research and check their facts. They are not supposed to share their personal opinions in their articles. 

    A journalist’s job is to give all the facts and let readers form their own opinions. 

    Today, there are still many journalists at respected newspapers and news programs. What’s new is the internet. Now, almost anyone can write and publish a story online. There are dozens of fake-news websites. People can easily spread untrue stories on Twitter and Facebook. 

    At the same time, it has become easier for people to doubt stories that are true. If someone doesn’t agree with a story, he or she can simply say, “That’s fake.” This makes it hard to have conversations about important issues.

    Not so long ago, most people learned about the news from just a few respected newspapers and TV news programs. Americans learned to trust news stories that were written mainly by professional journalists. 

    Journalists—people who report the news—are trained to do careful research and check their facts. They’re not supposed to include their personal opinions in their articles. 

    Instead, a journalist’s job is to just provide the facts and let readers form their own opinions. 

    Today, there are still many journalists at respected newspapers and news programs. What’s new is the internet. Now, almost anyone can write and publish a story online. There are dozens of fake-news websites, and people can easily spread untrue stories on Twitter and Facebook. 

    At the same time, it has become easier for people to doubt stories that are
 true: If someone doesn’t agree with a story, he or she can simply say, “That’s fake.” This makes it difficult to have conversations about important issues. 

    Not long ago, most Americans got their news from a few newspapers and TV news programs. This news was written by professional journalists. 

    Journalists are people who report the news. They are trained to do research and check facts. 

    A journalist’s job is to give all the facts. They don’t share their opinions. They let readers make up their own minds. 

    Today, there are still professional journalists. They work for trusted newspapers and news programs. What’s new is the internet. Now, almost anyone can write and publish a story online.

    There are many fake-news websites. People can spread fake stories on Twitter and Facebook. 

    It’s also easier now for people to doubt stories. People doubt stories even when they’re true. If someone doesn’t like what a story says, he or she can just say, “That’s fake.” This makes it hard for people to discuss important things.

Getting Rich

WAYHOME studio/Shutterstock.com (Phone); Javier Brosch/Shutterstock.com (Dog)

    Why would people want to write and publish news stories that aren’t true? The answer is simple. Fake-news writers want to make money.

    Companies pay to place ads on websites. The companies want to place their ads on websites that get a lot of visitors. This makes sense. More visitors means more people will see the companies’ ads and buy what they’re selling.

    Fake-news websites get a lot of visitors. How? Fake-news writers create stories with shocking headlines. They know that you are more likely to click on these shocking articles—and maybe you will even share them with friends.

    When fake-news sites have a lot of visitors, companies buy a lot of ads—and the sites’ writers get rich. “I make like $10,000 a month,” one fake-news writer told The Washington Post.

    Why would people want to write and publish news stories that aren’t true? The answer is simple: Fake-news writers want to make money. 

    Companies pay to place ads on websites, and these companies want to place their ads on websites that attract a lot of visitors. More visitors to a website means more people who are seeing ads on that site—and more people who will buy what the companies are selling.

    Fake-news websites get a lot of visitors because they post stories with shocking headlines. They know that you’re more likely to click on these shocking articles—and maybe you’ll even share them with friends.

    When fake-news sites have a lot of visitors, companies buy a lot of ads—and the sites’ writers get rich. “I make like $10,000 a month,” one fake-news writer told The Washington Post. 

    Why do people want to write fake news? The answer is simple. Fake-news writers want money. 

    Companies pay to place ads on websites. The companies want their ads on websites that get a lot of visitors. This makes sense. They want many people to see the ads. These people might buy what the companies are selling. 

    Fake-news sites get a lot of visitors. How? They post stories with shocking headlines. They know that you are more likely to click on these shocking articles. You might even share them with friends. 

    When sites have lots of visitors, companies buy lots of ads. This is how fake-news writers get rich. “I make like $10,000 a month,” one fake-news writer said.

True or False?

    Sometimes it’s easy to know that a story is fake. You wouldn’t be tricked by a crazy headline like “Zombies Attack New York.”

    But many fake news articles don’t seem crazy. That’s because they come with photos and real-sounding facts. Some are posted on websites with serious-sounding names, like the Boston Tribune or Political Insider.

    Stanford University in California did a study. It found that 80 percent of middle school students could not tell the difference between a real news story and a fake one.

    But don’t worry. It’s a skill you can learn.

    Sometimes it’s apparent that a story is false. You wouldn’t be tricked by a crazy headline like “Zombies Attack New York.” 

    But many fake news articles don’t seem crazy, because they come with photos and real-sounding facts. In addition, some are posted on websites with serious-sounding names, like the Boston Tribune or Political Insider. 

    A study by Stanford University in California found that 80 percent of middle school students couldn’t tell the difference between a real news story and a fake one. 

    But don’t worry—it’s a skill you can learn.

    Sometimes it’s easy to tell that a story is fake. A crazy headline like “Zombies Attack New York” won’t trick you.

    But many fake articles don’t seem crazy. That’s because they come with photos. They also have real-sounding facts. Some are posted on websites with names that sound serious, like the Boston Tribune or Political Insider. 

    Researchers did a study on middle school students. They wanted to know if the students could tell if a news story was real or fake. They found that 80 percent of the students could not tell the difference. 

    But don’t worry. It’s a skill you can learn.

The Good News

Facebook and Google are trying to stop the spread of fake news.
 
And you can too. Here are some suggestions.

1- Remind yourself that not everything posted online is true. Even if your smartest friend shared the story with you, it could still be a lie. Pretend you’re a detective looking for the truth.

2- Get news from respected newspapers and websites, like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, or CNN.com. If someone shares a story with you online, pay attention to who published it first.

3- Ask smart questions as you read. Where is the writer getting the information in the article? Is there enough good evidence to back it up?

4- Check facts. Start with fact-checking sites like FactCheck.org and PolitiFact.com. Teachers and family can help too.

And here’s another suggestion: If you read a story saying your best friend robbed a bank, don’t believe it. •

Facebook and Google are trying to stop the spread of fake news.
 
And you can too. Here are some suggestions.

1- Remind yourself that not everything posted online is true. Even if your smartest friend shared the story with you, it could still be a lie. Pretend you’re a detective looking for the truth. 

2- Get news from respected newspapers and websites, like The New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal, or CNN.com. If someone shares a story with you online, pay attention to who published it first.

3- Ask smart questions as you read. Where is the writer getting the information in the article? Is there enough good evidence to back it up?

4- Check facts. Start with fact-checking sites like FactCheck.org and PolitiFact.com. Teachers and family can help too.

And here’s another suggestion: If you read a story saying your best friend robbed a bank, don’t believe it. •

Facebook and Google are trying to stop the spread of fake news.
 
And you can too. Here are some suggestions.

1- Remind yourself that not everything posted online is true. Even if your smartest friend shared the story, it could still be a lie. Be a detective. Look for the truth. 

2- Get news from respected newspapers and websites, like The New York TimesThe Wall Street Journal, or CNN.com.  Think about who published the stories that are shared with you.

3- Ask smart questions as you read. Where is the writer getting the information? Is there enough good evidence to back it up? 

4- Check facts. Start with fact-checking sites like FactCheck.org and PolitiFact.com. Teachers and family can help too.

And if you read a story saying your best friend robbed a bank, don’t believe it. •

ACTIVITY: 5 Questions About Fake News

What to do: Answer the questions below. Use full sentences.

What to do: Answer the questions below. Use full sentences.

What to do: Answer the questions below. Use full sentences.

Why are fake news stories bad for all of us?

Why are fake news stories bad for all of us?

Why are fake news stories bad for all of us?

 What do professional journalists do? 

 What do professional journalists do? 

 What do professional journalists do? 

Where do people publish and share fake news?

Where do people publish and share fake news?

Where do people publish and share fake news?

Who makes money with fake news?

Who makes money with fake news?

Who makes money with fake news?

How can you help stop the spread of fake news?

How can you help stop the spread of fake news?

How can you help stop the spread of fake news?

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