The Growth of Alternative Facts

Fake news has become one of the most talked about topics on many news outlets.

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Fake news has become one of the most talked about topics on many news outlets.

Sophia Lorenzetti, Reporter

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The term “alternative facts” has been in the news since late January;  however, it has grown into something more than just a term. It was first mentioned in an interview on Meet the Press, a show on NBC focused on politics and news within the nation’s capital, with Kellyanne Conway.  She defended White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s false statement about the attendance at Donald Trump’s inauguration as President and called them “alternative facts”. Since the term’s first introduction, it has grown into a dispute about “fake news” and the Trump Administration’s ability to censor news that may be presented to the public.

Since the term’s first introduction, it has grown into a dispute about “fake news” and the Trump Administration’s ability to censor news that may be presented to the public.

Kellyanne Conway speaking with Chuck Todd on Meet the Press.

Such disputes originate from President Trump’s ban on the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) media. This ban includes the screening of all EPA media by the Office of Administration and Resource Management, an organization within the Executive Office of the President responsible for overseeing the general administration of the entire Executive Office. This media ban hinders the EPA’s ability to release documents (which may include pictures, fact sheets, social media content) to the public without the administration’s review and approval.

The Environmental Protection Agency was created for the purpose of protecting human health and the environment in the United States.

While there hasn’t been any update on the ban since its initiation, it has already affected the distribution of facts to the public. One of the concerns stemming from the censoring and screening of the EPA, is that presents the opportunity for bans in other organization; thus, affecting the credibility of news sources. As IB students, who are constantly involved with essays and assessments that depend on information gathered from credible sources, this is something that should concern them.

As IB students, who are constantly involved with essays and assessments that depend on information gathered from credible sources, this is something that should concern them.

Mr. Burak, a government and economics teacher, mentions that just because topics can be controversial or unpleasant, doesn’t make it fake news. Before the term “alternative facts” grew, “fake news” often referred to political satire found on various social media sites, like Facebook or Twitter. However, it has become a term used in the current administration to discredit information that goes against their popular beliefs. Burak points out, “The current administration’s misuse of the term fake news is in many ways more damaging than the ‘real’ fake news. It sows seeds of distrust in legitimate media, reduces the efficacy of the free press and allows people to dismiss any news that doesn’t conform to their worldview.”

Besides censoring and discrediting, screening information before it is presented to the public can alter how the information is presented and interpreted by the public. Mrs. Yeokum, the Production Team 10 teacher, mentions that facts may be presented as what they are, but can be manipulated into something they are not. She suggests students should question the purpose and intentions of their sources.

Mr. Crossen, a history and Theory of Knowledge teacher, agrees with this. He brings up, “Attention to language is crucial.  The more shocking, outrageous, or upsetting the news is, the more important it is to verify further.” Both teachers agree cross-verification is a great way to check the reliability of sources. It is important to continue to have the motivation to challenge the news, so students can become active thinkers and inquirers.

Both teachers agree cross-verification is a great way to check the reliability of sources. It is important to continue to have the motivation to challenge the news, so students can become active thinkers and inquirers.

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