Truth and Journalism

Pre-Collegiate Fellows in Investigative Journalism at the University of South Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communications explored the issue of “fake news.” These eight high school journalists analyzed four websites — Disclose TV, Nation of Change, The Truth Unites, and Real News Network — that were purported to contain “fake news” and evaluated their reporting’s quality, accuracy and transparency.

The fellows looked into the nature of the websites’ information and how it was created, sources used and links provided to support claims and charges.  The websites’ authenticity was evaluated and each site was graded based on its success at fulfilling the reader’s need for clear, factual information that is well-sourced and avoids bias.

‘Fake news’ is an oxymoron.
If it’s fake, it’s not news.
If it’s news, it had better not be fake.”

Charles Bierbauer

Dean, University of South Carolina College of Information and Communications

Criteria for the Fake News Report Card

The Fake News Report Card was used to evaluate the reliability and validity of the select news outlets the fellows examined.

You may use this card to grade an individual article, collection of articles, newscast or website.Assign a number from 0 to 5, with 0 being “unfulfilled” and 5 being “fulfilled,” for each of the traits below. A total of 15-20 points would mean the news is quite solid and you may handle with confidence. A total of 0-5 would suggest the news is weak and should be handled with caution.Keep in mind that failure to fulfill the categories does not necessarily mean the news is “fake.” It might simply suggest a lack of expertise.

Is it clear who founded the website and for what purpose and who operates it now?
Is it clear what is fact and what is opinion? Is it clear when the information is original to the website and when it has been gathered from other sources?
Are sources of information, claims or charges named and when they are not is the reason clear? Are all facts supported with evidence and is that evidence unbiased?
Do articles emphasize authenticity and avoid language like “believe,” “think,” or “feel” when referring to sources other than the writer? Do articles avoid large, unattributed narrative sections?

Disclose TV

Disclose tv’s website is used to share latest alternative, strange and weird news as well as a category of “popular” news. The articles are used to inform the audience on information that has been “purposely and unlawfully concealed or simply have been forgotten by modern mankind over time”. Though, their information that is being shared, is not factual and there is no evidence throughout most articles.

Nation of Change

Nation of Change is an online news platform that provides progressive news in the form of opinions, news analyses, news observations, and petitions. They hope to use unbiased journalism to their maximum potential and activism to provide effective strategies for change.

The Truth Unites

This website is an online news publication whose philosophy is to deliver truthful and unbiased information to the public. In theory, this is great and sounds like something the internet needs. However, in practice, the website is actually the complete opposite, delivering biased articles about everything from religion to health.

Real News Network

The Real News Network is a non-profit website that does not accept advertisements and government fundings. Serving as the “missing link in the global media landscape,” The Real News Network (TRNN) shares daily news videos and documentaries that interest the everyday person.

The School of Journalism and Mass Communications hosts the Pre-Collegiate Fellowship in Investigative Journalism each summer for 10-12 high school students. The workshop offers instruction on strategic web searching, cutting-edge reporting practices and data analysis. It’s been held in conjunction with the Carolina Journalism Institute since launching in 2012. The SJMC collaborates with the Southern Interscholastic Press Association and the South Carolina Scholastic Press Association to recruit and select applicants.