A major study on Americans’ consumption of fake news during the 2016 election was released last week — and rightly graced headlines from dozens of media outlets.
Yet the great variety in these headlines made it seem like there were at least two or three different studies, not one. Take the following selection:
“Fighting Fake News Is Not The Solution,” was how The New Yorker covered it.
“Is Fake News Actually Not A Big Deal?” countered Vice.
“Just a small group of Americans consume fake news, according to a new study,” was how Quartz summarized the study.
“The first scientific fake news study is here to confirm your worst fears about America,” went a more worrying headline from Mashable.
So which is it? Is fake news endemic and irresistible, or an overblown concern targeting a small subset of the American population? Should we conclude that “fact checking hasn’t worked at all,” as Mashable does — or that the study proves the “ineffectiveness” of the same format, as The New Yorker’s Masha Gessen writes?
I don’t want to make this too much about headlines (as important as they are). News studies are hard to boil down in a short, shareable sentence and fact-checkers have on occasion taken issue with how I myself characterize new studies.
But given how contentious the whole conversation around misinformation and fact-twisting has become, we ought to be more balanced about what new research does and doesn’t tell us.
To start with, the working paper released by Andrew Guess, Brendan Nyhan
Read more here: https://www.poynter.org/news/what-new-major-study-about-fake-news-means-and-doesnt-mean-fact-checkers