Where Fake News Goes to Die

My choice for this week is the CNN story, Where Fake News Goes to Die, from March 10th, 2017. http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/10/us/snopes-day-in-the-life-trnd/

It’s less a “day in the life” story, as promised by the URL, than an abridged history of mythbusting website Snopes.com, coupled with information about their procedure. In light of the influence of fake news on the 2016 election and Snopes’ recent status as an official “fact-checker” for Facebook news feeds, it’s really relevant to the confluence of journalism and social media. But the article itself leaves something to be desired.

The structure is a bit off, with the nut graph coming only in the fifth section of the article, “The Trump Effect-” that’s after an extended introduction, a history of the website, and a few employee profiles. The quotes selected are not particularly interesting, and often overused, especially in the “Facebook Friends” portion, where quotes make up the bulk of the information.

I do like the the reporter’s conversational tone, as far as succinct answers to questions that have already been proven false (“no, it has not,” etc.). It reflects the casual nature of the Snopes work environment. But he goes too far when he puts words in the mouths of the employees with “There used to be a feeling among the staff of ‘how can people fall for this crap?'”

I’m personally not a fan of the way the article ends, either. “The truth awaits” may be punchy, but it came off as groan-worthy.

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10 Responses to “Where Fake News Goes to Die”

  1. Hi Al, this is an interesting article! I think the author tries to paint a picture with imagery in the lede paragraphs, but falls a bit short due to lacking detail. Also, when he talks about Trump’s “big speech” in the third paragraph, there is no context as to what the speech he was referring to. Maybe I just don’t pay enough attention to politics, but I do not remember what speech was given right before this article was posted. Some background (or even “big speech about xyz topic” or including a hyperlink with more information) would have been nice. I did enjoy the anecdote about Disney urban legends. I did not know that this was how Snopes began and found it fascinating and entertaining. I found the way the article was set up with different headers to be somewhat effective. The article covered a huge range of topics, and having the headers helped, but it was still relatively difficult to follow the “so what” of the story. Not until the end did they circle back to Trump, explaining why the story is being told now. I liked the side bar with all of the numbers about Scopes. Stuff like that appeals to me because it stands out and easily quantifies the story. I thought the kicker had potential, but was just short of being exemplary. Saying “the truth awaits” gives a nod to the entire basis that Scnpes builds itself on, but just does not give enough to be a truly effective kicker. However, despite the shortcomings of this article, I thought it was insightful and brought light to how Scopes has been conquering fake news for decades.

  2. I thought this article was very interesting. Although, I felt many of the quotes could have been put in context more appropriately. The structure may not be that of a conventional piece but I think it allows the reader to really see the scope of the issue of fake news. The author discussing the history of the website and its growth in popularity do a great job on how important it is becoming to fact check, especially in this generation of social media where any individual/group can make claims. The way many examples are used to show the types of theories that they have fact checked portrays a trend of going from trivial fact checking to fact checking news/clickbait meant to polarize individuals. These examples really illustrate the growing importance of Snopes role in news. The article really shows the bigger picture of a disparity in the consumption of news. People tend to not get the news but “their” news. This issue in turn is also making people cynical to Snopes fact checking ability, which is indicative of people’s tendency to willfully ignorant.

  3. I thought this article was very interesting. Although, I felt many of the quotes could have been put in context more appropriately. The structure may not be that of a conventional piece but I think it allows the reader to really see the scope of the issue of fake news. The author discussing the history of the website and its growth in popularity do a great job on how important it is becoming to fact check, especially in this generation of social media where any individual/group can make claims. The way many examples are used to show the types of theories that they have fact checked portrays a trend of going from trivial fact checking to fact checking news/clickbait meant to polarize individuals. These examples really illustrate the growing importance of Snopes role in news. The article really shows the bigger picture of a disparity in the consumption of news. People tend to not get the news but “their” news. This issue in turn is also making people cynical to Snopes fact checking ability, which is indicative of people’s tendency to willfully ignorant.

  4. I think this was a great informative article about the growing contributions Snopes has provided to news media. I think the lede and nut graph do a nice job relating the message of the article, however I agree it may have been more informative if the author would have elaborated more context relating to the quotes. I think the article brought up the issue of how fake news is easily creeping its way into people’s views due to its compelling emotional appeal. For example when Vinny Green said, “These websites are designed to be as misleading as possible,” and that they invoke an emotional response rather than providing an in-depth informative position. I think this article properly shed light on a an initiative to fight back and reclaim proper journalism and how Snopes has grown from a simple concept to an innovator of digital media news. Hopefully Snopes can one day construct their own journalism stories and further expand their credibility as a reliable, honest news source.

  5. Thanks for sharing this story! I really enjoyed hearing about the backstory of Snopes and how the company’s work has shifted throughout its history, first in response to the Walt Disney myth, then in response to 9/11 conspiracy theories, and today in the Trump era. In my opinion, this article was written differently than some of the others we’ve read for class this semester. Almost every paragraph/sentence seemed punchy and lede-worthy which I both liked as it was fun to read, but disliked as it meant that some parts of the story were written more on the surface, than to provide a thorough analysis. I agree that the article falls a little bit short A major component I wished the article touched on more is how fake news contributed to the election by including a story of someone who voted for Trump based on what they read in fake news stories. Another way the story could end would be to include some of Snopes’ tips to readers as to some of the warning signs or things to look out for when reading news that may suggest it’s unreliable or inaccurate.

  6. One idea that I really appreciated from this article was when the founders of Snopes spoke about expanding its website to journalism and podcasts. I think this is very important because it may help them shed light on what “real news” looks like. One could argue that even sites like CNN and the NYT promote “fake news” in some instances. Not because they are trying to spread false ideas but because some articles may be politically skewed or lack journalists on the ground. While both of the sources are more often than not successful at spreading “real news,” I think Snopes could show how to do truthful journalism and what it looks like. Their work on their site is incredible at showing what untruthful journalism looks like and this definitely presents an area that Snopes could fill.

    P.S. I still think NYT and CNN create a lot of extremely credible news articles.

  7. I do agree that this article did not have a conventional structure, and I would have preferred it if the statistics had been shared more succinctly and further towards the beginning. It was odd how they were grouped together at the side of the article near the end, but I suppose it functioned as a summary of the numbers they shared throughout the piece. I did enjoy the content though, as we’ve heard plenty about fake news, but not how it’s currently being combatted online. I was especially surprised when they mentioned the story about the mosque in Sterling Heights, MI, which is my hometown, and it’s a story that I read about in my local paper. I didn’t even realize there were false stories about this issue being spread online. It’s great that fact checking groups like this are following an International Fact Checking Code of Principles, because you don’t want people to mistakenly (or intentionally) label something as fake or let something untrue become the narrative. I wonder if regular news agencies will implement these standards as well?

  8. I thought this article was an interesting read, however it was unnecessarily long. I don’t fully understand the choice in the subheadings and why they chose to make certain ones when. I appreciate Snopes and I liked getting to hear more about the company as a whole. I agree with you that the end felt a little gimmicky, but it was an alright sentiment. Still, all in all, I wish this had been a shorter article with better direction.

  9. This article really did not grab my interest. It was more a history of the entire company. I think that the article should have taken about why people should be using this now more than ever. The time relevance was not stated as explicitly as it could have. The quotes are helpful to get inside perspective.

    The best part about this article are the relevant pictures/captions and graphics below each sub-section. They help to pace the reader in the context of what they are talking about. It also help by making the people from the written piece to be more engaging and have a personality. The graphics that show “by the numbers” and the vetting process help to give more detail that is better understood through visuals.

  10. I agree with a lot of the criticisms about the structure. It definitely doesn’t use the traditional news structure that we’ve been taught, but it’s also definitely not a traditional news story. Andrew Davis brought up a good point that this is “more a history of the entire company,” which makes me wonder if this different structure is better for this kind of piece. The author briefly touches on Snopes wanting to branch into news production, but that’s not the main point of the piece. I’m sure that all of us could have written an article on their reporting at Standing Rock using the lede/nut graph/body structure, but I’m just not sure if that blueprint would be the best option for a corporate profile.

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