If the recent U.S. Presidential Election has shown us anything, it’s that we are a lazy people with regard to how we get our news.
Far too many of us have relied on social media for all of our news needs. And why not? It’s a lot faster than sitting down and watching a half hour of news on the TV and besides who wants to see another piece about the economy where there are PUPPIES!! to look at?
We have become complacent. We have accepted as truth too many stories shared on social media not because they contained verified facts but because they got our attention by first being sensationalistic and then by filling us with blatant lies. That’s how they hook you in – it’s called click-bait. People get paid big bucks for this.
That’s not news. That’s brain rot.
But we hit that share button, didn’t we? (I have to admit, I’ve been guilty as charged.) Gee, don’t know if it’s true, but take a look at this one!
I was recently privy to a Facebook political page where the following discussion took place:
“Anti-Trump: I am willing to give him a chance but his hiring Bannon makes that extremely hard to do.
Trump supporter: I am very happy that you are willing to give him a chance, thank you. I think he deserves that chance. But again, I have no idea who Bannon is so I can’t even reply to that, I’m sorry.”
Here’s a suggestion. If you don’t know who Bannon is, then sit down and shut up.
Or better yet look him up. Seriously, do a Google search on Bannon and then tell me what you think.
We, through our complacent ignorance, through our click-bait “articles”, and our never ending lust for making heroes out of reality TV stars have brought this entirely upon ourselves.
We know more about bachelors and real wives then we do about political appointees. For the love of America, the world, and all that is good – things absolutely have to change. They simply must.
So what can we do?
- First and foremost- limit your time on Social Media. Guess what? Facebook and Twitter are not real life. They’re an insulated bubble in which all your like-minded friend have a protected conversation. If someone says something you don’t like – it’s easy enough to block them. In real life, you can’t block people – you have to listen to them. Start talking to real people. .
- Stop sharing news that is not news. What someone wore on the red carpet while interesting is NOT news – stop pretending that it is.
- Start vetting “news” that you see on your pages. If it’s a lie call it out. There are sites like Snopes that research suspicious articles.
- While there is free speech, no one needs to put up with unacceptable hateful rhetoric. Identify it when you see it. Don’t allow someone to bully or say hateful things in the name of Freedom of Speech – they’re just being a jerk. Let them know.
- Subscribe to a reputable newspaper – Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Washington Post are a few – there is absolutely no excuse for anyone not knowing who the alt-right poster boy is in America. (And if you don’t know what alt-right means, please, please, please, look it up.) Papers have been dying because of the internet. Subscribe to a good one to make sure that we continue to get unbiased news from respectable journalists.
- Expand your horizons. Begin watching news hours from trustworthy non-biased agencies like NPR and BBC – believe it or not there is an entire world outside of America.
- Take a look at the list at the bottom of this post compiled by Melissa Zimdars, a communication and media professor from Merrimack College in Massachusetts, of fake news sites and stop getting your news from these sources. Immediately.
As writers, it is absolutely imperative that we go forward with eyes wide open. It is our responsibility to use our words in order to raise awareness, to identify injustice, and to tell the truth. We have a powerful tool – we need to powerfully wield our swords.
Do your job.
The following is the list of fake news sites compiled by Melissa Zimdars, a communication and media professor from Merrimack College in Massachusetts.
As an update to this post, the following has been reported by the L.A. Times –
UPDATE: Nov. 17, 5:52 p.m.:The professor who created the list has taken down the Google doc. She said it was a safety measure in response to threats and harassment she and her students and colleagues had received. She is continuing to work on it and plans to release it in the future in a format other than a Google doc.
False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical “News” Sources
Disclaimer 1: All of the contents in this document reflect the opinion of the author and are for educational purposes only. This resource was split into categories around 8:00pm EST on 11/15/16.
CATEGORY 1: Below is a list of fake, false, or regularly misleading websites that are shared on Facebook and social media. Some of these websites may rely on “outrage” by using distorted headlines and decontextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits. These websites are categorized with the number 1 next to them.
CATEGORY 2: Some websites on this list may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information, and they are marked with a 2.
CATEGORY 3: Other websites on this list sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions, and they are marked with a 3.
CATEGORY 4: Other sources on this list are purposefully fake with the intent of satire/comedy, which can offer important critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be shared as actual/literal news. I’m including them here, for now, because 1.) they have the potential to perpetuate misinformation based on different audience (mis)interpretations and 2.) to make sure anyone who reads a story by The Onion, for example, understands its purpose. If you think this is unnecessary, please see Literally Unbelievable.
Note: I will be updating the categorizations and adding links gradually through the next couple of days.
Many of the websites on this list continue to offer valuable journalism and/or satirical commentary. For example, a website included on this list wrote an overall thoughtful piece about the list, but the headline suggests that every source on this list is fake, which misrepresents the list. Finally, I do not condone plug-ins that automatically block any of the websites listed below. And as a reminder, not all of the sources listed below should be considered fake.
Tips for analyzing news sources:
- Avoid websites that end in “lo” ex: Newslo (above). These sites take pieces of accurate information and then packaging that information with other false or misleading “facts” (sometimes for the purposes of satire or comedy).
- Watch out for websites that end in “.com.co” as they are often fake versions of real news sources
- Watch out if known/reputable news sites are not also reporting on the story. Sometimes lack of coverage is the result of corporate media bias and other factors, but there should typically be more than one source reporting on a topic or event.
- Odd domain names generally equal odd and rarely truthful news.
- Lack of author attribution may, but not always, signify that the news story is suspect and requires verification.
- Some news organizations are also letting bloggers post under the banner of particular news brands; however, many of these posts do not go through the same editing process (ex: BuzzFeed Community Posts, Kinja blogs, Forbes blogs).
- Check the “About Us” tab on websites or look up the website on Snopes or Wikipedia for more information about the source.
- Bad web design and use of ALL CAPS can also be a sign that the source you’re looking at should be verified and/or read in conjunction with other sources.
- If the story makes you REALLY ANGRY it’s probably a good idea to keep reading about the topic via other sources to make sure the story you read wasn’t purposefully trying to make you angry (with potentially misleading or false information) in order to generate shares and ad revenue.
- It’s always best to read multiple sources of information to get a variety of viewpoints and media frames. Some sources not yet included in this list (although their practices at times may qualify them for addition), such as The Daily Kos, The Huffington Post, and Fox News, vacillate between providing important, legitimate, problematic, and/or hyperbolic news coverage, requiring readers and viewers to verify and contextualize information with other sources.
Bio: I am an assistant professor of communication & media, and this list started as a resource for my students, who are learning about journalism/social media/media literacy.
Update 1: I’ve received hundreds of emails with suggestions, very few of which are duplicates, so it will take me a while to sift through and verify them. I will add them as appropriate. (EDIT 11/15/2016 @ 3:42 EST: I have a list of sources, suggested by all of you, that will take me a long time to get through)
Update 2: Yes, I am considering further coding/categorizing these sources for clarity and creating a more durable/dynamic database. This is likely just step 1.
Update 3: Some people are asking which news sources I trust, and all I can say is that I read/watch/listen very widely, from mainstream, corporate owned sources (The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes) as well as The Atlantic, National Public Radio, and various local and alternative sources with different political perspectives, some of which are included on this list. The problem: Even typically reliable sources, whether mainstream or alternative, corporate or nonprofit, rely on particular media frames to report stories and select stories based on different notions of newsworthiness. The best thing to do in our contemporary media environment is to read/watch/listen widely and often, and to be critical of the sources we share and engage with on social media.
Update 4: A group of AWESOME librarians will be working with this list to provide more detail, examples of the news articles in question, etc. I will post what they make here when it is complete.
Update 5: It should be noted I’m not the first person to call out some of these websites. When I first started compiling this specific large list on Monday, some friends alerted me to many websites doing similar and great work, such as Ed Brayton’s recent post at Patheos (I included many of the websites on his list after checking them myself if I was unfamiliar). I plan on providing more links to outside resources in the near future.
© 2016 by Melissa Zimdars.
is made available under a Creative Commons
Attribution 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit
Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.
Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com) She writes about her chickens for GRIT, Backyard Poultry, Chicken Community, and Mother Earth News.