By Chelsea LoCascio
Madonna is dead, and you have 10 minutes to write an obituary.
As I manically composed a story about her sudden death, I got so caught up in the restrictions: I have to be fast, I have to be factual and I have to be first.
In reality, I was not quick — I took about 15 minutes — I was not accurate — I might have spelled her name wrong — and I was not first — I was among the last to file the story.
Of course, the Queen of Pop is not dead, but I had to react to her fictional passing for an assignment in one of my journalism classes, and the result was not something of which I am proud.
Modern journalists face an unseemly amount of challenges: They have to be accurate, eloquent and beat everyone to the punch. But I’m biased, right? Or at least that’s what everyone tells me.
I find myself being a self-proclaimed crusader for journalism, trying to defend those who do honest, thorough work to inform the public.
I have actually had fights with people during class after a conversation about anything suddenly turns into “Well, it’s the media’s fault.” Again, I am not proud, but I feel like someone has to do it – someone has to offer the other side of the conversation.
I’ll be the first one to admit that not all news sources are original — which is evident in Conan O’Brien’s bit “Newscasters Agree: Valentine’s “I Love You” Edition” on YouTube — and some are not even factual.
Luckily, there are a few ways to determine between what’s real and fake. Check the URL as some, such as abcnews.com.co, are not real news sites, according to NPR.org. Take a look at the website’s “About Us” section because it might say the site is satirical, or the use of over dramatic language might indicate it is an unprofessional site.
Despite these bias or fake sources, some honest people are still trying to inform the public. Without professional journalists, who would uncover the corrupt and unjust? Who would be the gatekeeper of what information can and should be allowed into the mainstream?
Without them, there would be endless fake news seeping into society and penetrating minds to further widen the divide between left and right, conservative and liberal, honesty and falsity.
In my Introduction for Cultural Anthropology class this semester, I was captivated by my professor’s words, as she was giving the most honest opinion about the media I have heard during my time at the College — one that didn’t require me to fight back.
“A free press is an integral part of what makes our society open. It is also our constitutional right,” said Rachel Adler, an anthropology professor. “When the press is silenced or delegitimize, it is a serious problem, as it is a step toward authoritarianism.”
She said that while sources like The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal are not perfect, they are trustworthy publications that try to present the facts. She talked about how “fake news blurs the line between fact and fiction,” and how some scholars argue that there is no real objective truth.
However, she agrees that subjective truth is unscientific, as truth is based on evidence and facts.
With the creation of fake news, people are stuck in an echo chamber of their perceived reality and truth, which damages their perception of unbiased, hardworking journalists.
“It is easy to find ‘evidence’ for something that we already accept as fact,” Adler said. “I think that we must be critical of the news that supports our own point of view. This is not second nature — it takes effort, and it can be disconcerting. But it is well worth it.”