Fake news has recently reached media headlines in grand proportions particularly related to the most recent U.S. Presidential campaigns. One fake news article, which is news that is meant to deceive the reader, has the potential to swiftly become viral. The effect of proliferating fake news comes when it starts to become real news in the psyche of the readers.
This effect reached a violent degree when a 28-year old from North Carolina read online that a pizzeria was harboring young children as a part of a child abuse ring led by, then candidate, Hillary Clinton. He believed the story was true. The article led to this father of two to drive 6 hours to the pizzeria and fire an assault-like AR-15 rifle. Fortunately, the police arrived, arrested him and no one was hurt.
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How Americans consume information and consider their sources is important for the future of the legitimate news media as well as the health and safety of all readers. ReportLinker conducted a survey respondents to understand how they keep themselves informed.
Forty-seven percent (47%) reported television and 47% reported internet as the main ways they keep themselves informed about current events. Of those who preferred television, most (63%) were ages 55 and over while Millennials (68%) favored the internet as their primary news source. Print newspapers only represented 18% but those who did favor this medium preferred a local newspaper (65%).
When asked how often Americans access their news sources, most (30%) kept themselves informed once per day and 24% stayed informed twice per day. Of those who viewed current events twice per day, they tended to watch the news on television (60%). Twenty-two percent (22%) checked their sources 3 to 5 times per day of whom 60% checked internet sources and 30% read the newspaper.
Although many people still check current events on their televisions, the new trend is to watch and read news on mobile devices. According to the ReportLinker survey, 64% of respondents read and watched the news on their smartphones, while only 22% and 14%, respectively, caught the news on their computers or tablets. Most who preferred smartphones for the news were between the ages of 18 and 24 years old (81%) and reported being of Hispanic origin (84%). However, 79% of those who watched or read the news on their laptops reported being of Asian origin.
Considering how many sources respondents sought, most (57%) reported consulting 2 to 3 sources of information for their news while only 18% consulted only 1 source and 25% consulted more than 3 sources. Millennials sought more than 3 sources for their news information.
When using the web as an information source, most (32%) considered Facebook as a media outlet followed by Google News and national newspapers websites. Of those who did read national newspapers online, 26% were between 45 and 54 years old. Yet, when asked if their sources were reliable, 58% agreed while 42% disagreed. Consequently, only 22% of respondents reported seeking accurate data to inform themselves and 20% sought established media websites.
Respondents clearly chose their information sources based on what outlet is most readily accessible. Google News is most readily available for younger audiences and Facebook’s frequent notifications are more accessible than seeking out a national newspaper. However, for older audience who may access the internet less often, the television becomes their most readily available news source.
Audiences aged 34 and younger, consequently, are more vulnerable to deceptive news. This data presents an opportunity for reputable outlets to be as available to younger audiences as Facebook is.