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.