How the barrage of fake news tarnishes public relations

Legitimate, objective journalism—i.e.,work of the ‘mainstream media’—cannot be considered the lone victim of the torrent of deliberate misinformation. By extension, PR has suffered, too.

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Fake news has always been around, but 2016 saw a spike in stories that were blatantly false or misleading or partially untrue.

This sudden rise in fake news was fueled by a combination of the heated emotions created by the divisive presidential election and the ease of publication and sharing of posts online, particularly on social media.

Facebook and Google were so alarmed by this flood of fake news that they announced they would crack down on fake news stories. This week Robin Rothberg, senior lecturer in communication studies at UNC Charlotte, posted a definition of fake news in the PRSA Open Forum:

Fake news is blatantly false or misleadingly exaggerated information presented as true via a purportedly trustworthy media source. Fake news hurts PR by lessening trust in all media.

Fake news versus ‘bad news’

However, it’s not just fake news that should raise red flags.

“The fictions and fabrications that comprise fake news are but a subset of the larger bad news phenomenon, which also encompasses many forms of shoddy, unresearched, error-filled and deliberately misleading reporting that do a disservice to everyone,” writes Snopes founder David Mikkelson.

How to spot fake news

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