The Infamous 'Fake News' List: Beware of Breakpoint?

John Stonestreet | BreakPoint | Tuesday, March 21, 2017
The Infamous 'Fake News' List: Beware of Breakpoint?

The Infamous 'Fake News' List: Beware of Breakpoint?


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Back in November, Melissa Zimdars, an assistant professor of communications and media at Merrimack College in Massachusetts, published a list called, “False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical ‘News’ Sources.” Last week, the list went viral when Harvard University Library linked to it as a helpful guide to “Fake News, Misinformation, and Propaganda.”

Now, there’s no question that there’s a problem with fake news online, especially when it comes to political news. In fact, we’ve talked about this before on BreakPoint and The Point, warning about passing on that news story before fact checking it, simply because it agrees with your bias. And Christians, who are called to be people of truth, have been just as guilty of this as anyone else.

That said, Zimdars’ list is strange, and in a very important way, self-contradictory. While many of the sites she identifies as “conspiracy,” “biased,” “fake,” “clickbait,” or “unreliable” certainly deserve those titles, there is a vastly greater number of conservative and right-leaning sites listed than liberal and left-leaning sites.

For example, all pro-life websites are listed as “biased,” but pro-abortion sites aren’t listed at all.  Also missing are sites like Vox, Slate, and BuzzFeed – though the list flags similar sites on the other end of the political spectrum such as Drudge and National Review.

And BreakPoint.org, our website, made the list as “unreliable.”

Now to be fair, Professor Zimdars acknowledges that her analysis is limited, and that the problem of fake news and the “if it bleeds, it leads” approach that dominates journalism today is a problem too big to be solved by her attempt to keep a running tally of media offenders.

But she, like so many other media experts and academics today, seems unaware of her own bias. And she is biased. And well, so are we. It’s what a worldview does, and none of us are exempt. Not you. Not me.

Of course that doesn’t mean that all sites are equal. Some worldviews better reflect reality than others, and no matter our worldview, we do live in the same world of facts. That said, let me take this time to clarify how we at the Colson Center see our responsibility to truth and facts each and every day on BreakPoint.

First, our primary allegiance is to the One who is the Truth– Jesus Christ. So we strive to tell stories truthfully without changing, embellishing, or conveniently omitting facts that matter. In fact, each day on our website, we’ll link to additional sources, including those we may disagree with. Now do we make mistakes on occasion? You bet. And we’re grateful for our listeners who are quick to tell us when we do.

Second, because the One who is the Truth is also the Way and the Life, we will take the world and other worldviews very seriously.

Third, we will strive to be as wise as serpents. We will not allow our commentaries to be dominated by outrage or despair. Christians are to be people of hope, and getting angry is no strategy in and of itself. We also need to think: How might I respond? What is my Christian responsibility?

And of course, our worldview commits us to the inherent dignity of each and every person. Therefore, we must be, as Fr. Robert Sirico said, “brutal with ideas and gentle with people.” People, even those who call our commentaries “unreliable,” are never our enemy. They are among those made in God’s image and for whom Christ died.

Now I’ll conclude by saying that I fully agree with what Professor Zimdars wrote on how to consume the news these days. “The best thing to do,” she writes, “in our contemporary media environment is to read/watch/listen widely and often, and to be critical of the sources we share and engage with on social media.”

Or as St. John said, “Test everything.” But to evaluate other sources we must be grounded in truth. And so make sure that among your sources is the ultimate source more reliable than any of the others: the revealed Word of God.

 

BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.

John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.

Publication date: March 21, 2017

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