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> GET WOKE #1 (How to read the news), A short lesson on discourse analysis~
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post Apr 7 2017, 05:41 PM
Post #1
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Hey guys!

I've decided to do my first post in this series on something which has not only been of specific interest to me recently, but also remains so relevant. Today we're gonna have a crash course on how to read the news, and how to avoid fake news. Now for most of you, this will probably be a gentle reminder, but there are also many who will benefit from todays PSA!

Okay, first paragraph is time to get the background explanation out the way. In discourse analysis (ways of analysing different texts, including the news) one of the objectives is to understand that there are meanings in text which are trying to influence a reader. There are a whole bunch of different ways/terms to look at this (something which I'm really interested in but won't bore ya'll with now!) but I think an important aspect to look at when reading the news objectively is classification. Why are certain words being used? Are these being used in order to sway the reader? This can go even further, including pronouns! For example, read articles speaking about war. Quite often by some news outlets, deaths from the opposition are dehumanised in order to create detachment. This can be done so subtly and quite often isn't as apparent as it may seem! This is really how to spot "fake news", usually by the linguistic technique. For example when quoting statistics they can be tempered with to remain true, but appear more dramatic. 10,000,000 looks a lot more extreme than simply saying 10 million! If you ever expect an article of being hyperbolic start looking at the way they're using language.

When reading the news objectively there are several key points to remember. Firstly, check your source. This should be blindly obvious to most of ya'll (aka don't trust the Daily Mail) but the amount of people who will trust news stories randomly shared on FB is... quite frightening. If you're unsure of the source website, this doesn't instantly mean it's false, I mean even tabloids can be right at times (sadly). There's one very simple way around this, cross reference. Check reliable news sources from all over the political spectrum and see which crossover facts exist. If you can't find many crossover sources, or are still unsure then check the sources within the news article. If they're quoting statistics, where are these pulled from? Do THEY have a source? If the facts are coming from an interview, think about the reliability of the interviewee, would they be more likely to take a certain position? Another thing to be wary of is confirmation bias, many outlets will run sensationalised reports which will be popular with their readership, as people like reading the news they agree with. I mean it's understandable- not many reporters would want to write the unpopular stories!

That's quite a general overview which could be applied to so many texts, but now let's specifically focus on political news and particularly on the way different parties are reported on, specifically around election times. Many papers affiliate themselves either to parties, or to somewhere along the spectrum, which of course in hand makes them support certain parties. When reading it's important to try remember whether the particular news outlet would be more likely to support a certain policy or politician based on their ideology. I want to state just now, that just because a news outlet may be more likely to support a particular ideology, does not then mean all their reporting on anything they support is fake news. However, it should always be remembered and then cross-checked. I find sometimes the way policy can be reported on can also be swayed by the news, it's so so important to always read the parties manifesto in their own words (I think Phil suggested he may do a post on how to read a party manifesto!), as well as reading the news that surround it.

Now I'm not saying it's impossible to casually read the news, my news routine is usually to flick through my BBC news app just to generally know what's going on. However, if i'm using the news to make any political decisions (or i'm just generally interested in a subject), this is when I put all of the above in play. Or, when I see a random FB news article and I'm wondering how much truth there could be in it kink.gif

In short summary, the best way to be clued up is to read around the issue. Make sure to check the original sources, and cross check over a couple of other articles. Stay properly informed!
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post Apr 7 2017, 05:59 PM
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Oh gosh, yes, absolutely. I've spent so long questioning stuff at uni that I do this automatically without thinking whenever I read the news, I have newspapers categorised into boxes, don't trust anything from the tabloids unless I've read it somewhere else, Guardian and Independent give nice stories that I generally agree with but I'm always careful to cross-check them with something else in case I'm in a bubble, Telegraph, I'm always looking for where the Tory angle is. And so on.

Very good post, Lotti, I'll look forward to seeing what else you have.
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post Apr 7 2017, 06:32 PM
Post #3
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You'd think this was common sense but I have definitely seen people sharing things willy nilly on FB as well. It can happen to anyone though really, my lecturer - a JOURNALISM lecturer - shared an image on Twitter relating to the Paris attacks which later turned out to be fake, so had to deliver a swift apology. I will always go to reputable sources for my news, but there can still be bias as you mentioned, plus sometimes news can crop up on social media first where cross-checking is a must. Celebrity deaths for instance, I have witnessed legit ones like Prince breaking but there have been a number of hoaxes too. So yes, couldn't agree with you more as a journalism student that cross-checking is essential and that people shouldn't be spoonfed by everything they read.
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post Apr 7 2017, 06:59 PM
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When I was a bit younger I was an absolute sucker for those click-bait Facebook stories mellow.gif Thankfully I'm a lot more sensible nowadays, I rarely check news on tabloid sites and never on trash like the Daily Mail (the Express is probably worse tbh), and if I do come across a important story on one of those sites I'll always take it with caution.
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