Fact-checking important factor in seeking the truth


On Feb. 15 at 4:00 a.m., @TIME tweeted "The Florida school shooting was the 18th school shooting of the year. It's only February" along with a link to a story on time.com with the headline "The Florida School Shooting Was the 18th School Shooting of the Year." This statement has been proved to be incorrect and that headline has been changed to "The Florida School Shooting Was One of Several This Year. And It’s Only February."

Fake news (n): false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting. The Collins Dictionary word of 2017.

We live in a world of bias and alternate facts in which the truth can often be difficult to recognize. However, it is important to know the difference between what is true and what is false before exaggerating or forming an argument.

Often times, facts that originate as true are bent or changed in a way that makes them false.

On Wednesday, Feb. 14, 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in what was the “18th school shooting of 2018,” a truly horrific tragedy. However, this was certainly not the 18th school shooting this year.

This is fake news.

That alternative fact spread across the internet in a matter of just minutes following the attack in Parkland, Florida. This statement, which was tweeted out by Everytown for Gun Safety, an organization with the goal of ending gun violence, is not what it sounds like. A “school shooting” is most commonly referred to as a tragedy in which someone opens fire on students or staff at a school. However, several of these reported “school shootings” were not what is generally associated with that phrase.

Two of these incidents were caused by a stray bullet that hit a school building. One was a suicide in a school bathroom. Three were cases of unintentional gunfire. Two were reports of gunfire for unknown reasons resulting in no injury. Two were attacks occurring after school hours. One report was removed by Everytown. Only seven of these “18 school shootings in 2018” were actual attacks during school hours.

Don’t get me wrong, seven firearm attacks in less than two months is still an issue. Despite the undeniable tragedies, this report was worded in such a way to stretch the truth in order to push agendas of organizations, such as Everytown’s.

This is fake news. And people believed it.

For people that get their news from biased and inaccurate news sources, such as Buzzfeed via Snapchat, alternative facts may be all one has read about tragic events, like Wednesday’s mass shooting. Even well-trusted sources such as TIME will slip up by using alternative facts. This ultimately results in brainwashed people who have no knowledge of what is actually going on in the world around them.

Someone with left-wing beliefs who gets all their information from CNN and Buzzfeed may have an entirely different view of the world than someone with right-wing beliefs that gets their news from Fox and Breitbart, both having no knowledge of the truth.

A journalist’s job when reporting news is to offer the truth through facts and reliable sources. Obviously, this does not always happen. Certain news organizations tend to incorporate opinion, bias or alternative facts, resulting in fake news. Varying from journalists, certain individuals may not always offer the truth, despite how much you think you can trust them.

President Trump is often caught repeating alternative facts, either in speeches or via Twitter, as tracked by Politifact, an organization that is operated by the Tampa Bay Times and fact-checks statements by members of Congress, the White House, lobbyists and interest groups.

In order to avoid fake news and educate yourself with the truth, one must cross-check facts and read multiple sources of varying opinion. By doing this, alternative facts and biased opinions can be ruled out, leaving you with what is real. This can take a great deal of time, but without doing so, you can not assume what you have read or been told is true.

Knowing the truth is knowing what is going on around you. It is important to educate yourself with real facts in order to have a factual understanding of the events and issues in today’s society. Next time, before you begin to exaggerate a claim or base an argument around a possibly illegitimate fact that you read on Snapchat or heard in the hallway, be sure to check your facts and educate yourself with the truth.

*Every fact in this column has been cross-checked with trustable sources. It wasn’t an easy or speedy process, but it was, by all means, important in order to share the truth, not rumors or made up lies.

Note: Bernie Sanders, who originally tweeted the incorrect fact of “18 school shootings in 2018” after it spread across the internet, tweeted out a correction on Feb. 16, stating that “[This fact] turned out to be incorrect and inflated. One school shooting is too many, and this is a crisis that must be addressed now, but it is important that we use correct stats when discussing this horrific situation.” This well-summed up statement serves as a great microcosm of my argument.