Freedom Of The Press: Our Fail-Safe Guide To Deciphering “Fake News”

Marissa Conway
A California girl based in London, Marissa navigates her way through expat living as a freelance writer, an Adjunct Fellow at the American Security Project, and founder and Editor-in-Chief of When she’s not glued to her MacBook, you’ll most likely find her on a plane en route to her next adventure

“The news is fake because so much of the news is fake.” — President Donald Trump, February 16, 2017

Well there you have it. Thanks to the brilliant insight of President Trump, apparently I no longer need to write this article. We now know with absolute certainty that the conclusive reason for the existence of fake news is that it exists. Hallelujah!

I have to be honest — it’s been a day. As I type this, I’m angrily sipping on tea in the dusty back corner of a pub, simply fuming about the state of things; they seem to have culminated into a body slam for me this week. The time difference between London and the U.S. means each morning I am greeted by the nonsensical overnight doings of our child-in-chief. I have been in a zombie-like state of overwhelm since January 20, though I’m pretty certain the only person who should be overwhelmed by the presidency is, actually, the president.

I credit one of the more difficult aspects of navigating the hailstorm of Trump gibberish as the lack of certainty in what I read online these days. It seems the spectrum of what news can be has been blown out of the water (if we can have serious conversations about someone who thinks bears might attack elementary schools, then I’m certain we’ve fallen down the rabbit hole, Alice). That, hand-inhand with utterly incorrect news articles flooding the internet, leaves me floundering for what is real. So here’s some advice on how to deal with all the alternative facts thrown our way:

Treat Yo Self

Tom and Donna had it right. Take a break. Put down Twitter and buy yourself some chocolate, or take a bath, or better yet – watch Parks and Rec! Audre Lorde, feminist extraordinaire, once said, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” For those of us who fret over the void our snarky political commentary will leave should we log off of Facebook for a day — don’t worry! — because even taking a break is a political act. Sometimes the best form of resistance is compassion for ourselves.


Chew Before You Swallow

Aka: read before you retweet. I’m guilty of doing this myself — I see a snappy headline, read the first paragraph, and think “Cool, might as well retweet!” Unfortunately, the burden to substantiate the validity of factual claims falls on us, the reader. There are a couple tricks to picking up on red flags in article: Does the site have a normal URL? Does the article have an author? Can you find that author’s Twitter account or other works in a Google search? Does the article hyperlink to other sources when it cites claims? If any of the answers are “no” then put that thing back where it came from or so help me!


Intentional Information

Or, a fancy way of saying: surround yourself with what’s credible. Understand the leanings of news organizations, and seek out opinions and analyses from both sides of the aisle. Fill up your newsfeed and email not just with the articles you’ll inherently agree with, but sharp, intelligent, and challenging ones which you can learn from.

There are some great organizations that seek to simplify the news. Both theSkimm and The World in Context are great daily emails which sum up the news succinctly. And of course, Vox has become the gold standard in explaining the news. But take the time to explore what fuels you. Deciphering fake news takes time, energy, and patience, but I do believe we can slay the beast with enough effort.