After the November 2016 Presidential election I talked with supporters of both President Trump and Ms. Clinton to better understand why they voted the way they did. I was totally appalled and sickened by the  high number of decisions based on “made-up” information. Information that was totally  or at least partially false.

The term “fake news” has become a catch-all for news that the reader/listener/viewer doesn’t like, doesn’t want to believe and/or information that’s intentionally or unintentionally untruthful. “Fake news” should not be confused with:

  •  Reporting mistake (information not intentionally withheld, made-up, or created with the intention to misinform or deceive)
  •  Fake information (fictitious, make-believe, fraudulent information, NOT based in fact)
  •  Misleading (intentionally deceptive, vague, distracting from something else) or
  •  Propaganda (political in nature, maybe/maybe not based in fact, elicits very strong emotional reactions)

Can “fake” news exist?

Spoiler alert: Not really. “Real” news is factual, true, authentic, and substantive; the information is solid. It is thoroughly researched, carefully written, and well vetted before release and distribution. In reality, “Fake” News”  is fiction, it’s made-up and thus isn’t news at all.

What do you think?

How do you feel when you think of “propaganda”? Do you think of propaganda as bringing about negative or positive change? Propaganda is misleading and/or highly biased information that promotes a specific ideological viewpoint. It is intentional and  deliberately spread. It is politically motivated. When evaluating whether something is propaganda, it is important to consider the following:

  • Who wrote/distributed the message? (gives you an idea of their perspective/agenda)
  • Who is the information intended for?  (target groups)
  • What actions are the writers expecting? (change in behaviors, actions such as go vote, volunteer…)
  • What feelings do you experience while reading?  (anger, fear, patriotism, happiness, self-sacrifice, joy…)


Here are some examples of very successful propaganda campaigns courtesy of the National Archives and Canva design school (more examples available). Do you have a reaction? If yes, what emotions do you feel?

Looking for more?

Can we stop using the word fake to describe made-up news?

It’s time to retire the tainted term “fake news”

Stop calling everything fake news – journalists are blurring several problems into one – and making it impossible to solve

Three sources for definition of propaganda – and Merriam-Webster

Please share some of your favorite articles on this topic.


Never did I expect to be writing about media literacy, democracy and news. I am most definitely an accidental blogger, especially regarding media and media literacy. And yet, here I am. I don’t have all the answers and my perspective is not the only perspective. (disclaimer: my thoughts, ideas, and opinions are my own and do not reflect any entity or individual. I represent only myself.)

The 2016 Presidential election changed everything for me and ignited my passion for democratic processes, the US Constitution, media literacy and the truth. After talking with supporters of both President Trump and Ms. Hillary Clinton, it became crystal clear that there is a lot of  “fake” news circulating in the media and at times it is very difficult to differentiate what is fiction and what is non-fiction.

What is “media?”

According to businessdirectory, media is “Communication channels through which news, entertainment, education, data, or promotional messages are disseminated. Media includes every broadcasting and narrowcasting medium such as newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, billboards, direct mail, telephone, fax, and internet”. If you read “‘an intervening agency, means, or instrument’ first applied to newspapers two centuries ago.” Generally speaking, it’s the tool(s) used to communicate information.

We live in a world where information is available 24/7 from a million different sources using hundreds of different tools to deliver the information. Some are credible and reliable, some are totally false and some are partially true and partially false. Of course, we trust our own sources of news/information; and yet if I’ve learned anything in the last few months – not only may our sources be unreliable, the information shared can be total fiction. So now what? We need to be a media literate citizens. Which is not as hard as it may seem.

Media literacy – what is it and is it important?

The Center for Media Literacy describes it this way: “media literacy…provides a framework to access, analyze, evaluate, create and participate with messages in a variety of forms — from print to video to the Internet. Media literacy builds an understanding of the role of media in society as well as essential skills of inquiry and self-expression necessary for citizens of a democracy.

As Abraham Lincoln stated “Let people know the facts and the country will be safe.” Without understanding the role media in society and the ability to discern truth from lies, Democracy can not survive.

What’s next?

I’m not exactly sure where this blog is going. I do know I’m passionate about democracy, education and people making informed decisions. I know we live in a world with information overload, I know we need to hold journalists and other news sources to very high standards, and each of us needs to be tenacious in our own fact checking.

Upcoming topics include: understanding media, how it functions and the role it plays in society, “clues” indicating whether a piece of information is fact, fiction or both, paid advertising or endorsement?, strengthening critical thinking skill, fact checking sources, how to pick your news and more. I hope you will join me on this journey.

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