Fake News: Bad Information Overdose

Many of you call on me from time to time to answer questions about police procedure and all things related. To do so, I typically draw on my own personal experience and training, and the knowledge acquired through first-hand encounters over the years.

When I respond to such inquiries, and when writing this blog, teaching workshops, etc., one thing I never do is present inaccurate information, especially something that’s intended to sway a writer’s opinion, feelings, or the outcome of a book. I offer fact. I provide fact. This blog is a factual collection of, well, facts.

The same is true in law enforcement. Embellishing a police report to make things seem in favor of one party over another, or to skew how something happened to cover a particularly unfavorable fact, is wrong. Therefore, it’s not supposed to be done. If so, well, there’s termination and possible time before a judge and/or behind bars.

We tell our children to always be truthful. To do otherwise would be wrong, right? That’s what we teach our kids, right? TELL THE TRUTH!!!

Lies hurt people.

Lies are wrong.

Enter today’s media.

Someone should teach them how to report actual fact. Imagine today’s reporter standing at the mic during a spelling bee …

Moderator – “Mr. Wouldn’tknowthetruthifitbithimonthebutt, your word is NEWS. Please use the 2017 definition.”

“News. Um … something somebody tells you and, um … no matter what it is you must believe it. Then, when passing along the information, you are, um … free to make up crap and insert it into the “news.” And so on. That’s what we do—open our mouths and crap falls out. News.”

I know, and I apologize. The microphone was a bit crudely drawn. Other than than … pretty much on the money.

So, to avoid overdosing on fake news, here’s a handy recipe. I hope it helps.


Truth in the News, a Recipe

Step One – Read “news” from all media sources.

Step Two – Try really hard to find eight or ten somewhat credible not too outlandish reports that seem to repeat similar bits and pieces of things you think could be true, good or not.

Step Three – Write down those “could-be-true” items, if any.

Step Four – Compare “could-be-true” stuff. Again, if any.

Step Five – Whittle down the list to the three stories that seem most believable.

Step Six – Thumbtack the three best stories to the family dartboard.

Step Seven – Close your eyes and toss a dart at the board.

Step Eight – Whichever story struck by the dart is the go-to “real news” story for the day. Don’t worry, it will soon change so be sure to keep plenty of paper and sharpened darts handy.

Step Nine – This one is important – Please, please, please, try not to allow emotion to control how a media report is perceived simply because it contains words you like/something you’d like to believe.

Be calm.

Wait for facts from a trusted source, not one that’s pushing an agenda, even if that agenda is one you favor. Yes, today’s media is, believe it or not, agenda driven.

Remember, things are not always as they appear. Take a breath. Step back. Do a bit of research.

Finally, in today’s Wild West shootout-type coverage of almost any topic, it’s certainly best to not read one “news” source merely because they’re “on your side.” It’s not a healthy approach in today’s climate of “Us Against Them.”




28 replies
  1. carl brookins
    carl brookins says:

    Interesting and useful. I offer a slight deviation, it being almost impossible to identify completely unbiased sources. I’m not sure there are any. I monitor slanted sources all the time. I am aware of the sources biases and take that into account. The alternative is to become ignorant of the realities of national and international life, which, in turn, usually means making incorrect voting and other decisions.

  2. ebeth2000
    ebeth2000 says:

    Spot on, Lee. I haven’t had TV for years, and don’t miss it. I only take the local weekly paper, which is full of people I know and “good news” (some call fluff), and the biggest news stories have first-hand quotes from the police/fire chief, city council or local business owners.

    • Lee Lofland
      Lee Lofland says:

      And you still don’t, Vinnie. 🙂 Seriously, I purposely draw these in this crude out of proportion style. I decided to start doing these to add a bit of levity to sometimes grim topics, while still getting the points across. I hope it’s going as planned.

  3. marinapub
    marinapub says:

    Great post, Lee. The “news” gets wackier and wackier and so many of the reporters, commentators, bloggers and people who disseminate whatever they see without checking to see if it is fact or fiction, has gotten overwhelming. Keep posting. Would love an article from you again for “Writers Tricks of the Trade.” Summer issue publishes on July 15.

  4. Dee Gatrell
    Dee Gatrell says:

    Good blog and so true. I once was a reporter at a small newspaper. I hope I never wrote a story with lies. I once had a man who wanted me to write a story about how he worked at a place with abused women. Was he kidding? I had never met him but had to get the weather report from him, and he would hit on me. No way would I write a story about how wonderful he was. That would’ve been fake news.

  5. Judy
    Judy says:

    Thought provoking blog. I learned at the Lincoln National Historic Site in Springfield, IL, that newspapers were horribly partisan in the 19th century. I learned from a journalist acquaintance that early 20th century papers often had a slant in favor of some interest group or another, such as labor. I believe that it was only in the second half of the 20th century that we had a “golden era” of journalism where writers tried to be objective. Then, in the late 20th century, I noticed that journalists started editorializing in their articles. I fear that we are merely returning to our roots. Choosing news sources that try to be fact-based and objective takes great effort.

  6. Calliopenjo
    Calliopenjo says:

    The first time I heard the phrase fake news was when Trump mentioned it on TV. I sorta kinda knew that the news wasn’t always as informative as they made it out to be. Something always seemed to be missing.

  7. Cathy Akers-Jordan
    Cathy Akers-Jordan says:

    Great post, Lee! I tell my college students, especially the freshmen, to look for the info on multiple sources. If it’s a debatable topic, they need to look at both sides of the issue. Most importantly, they should never simply believe what they see, read, or hear. Why does that source/person think X is true? How reliable is the evidence?

    I love the new web site!

  8. Lynette Robey
    Lynette Robey says:

    Fake news is so dangerous. I want the facts and nothing but the facts. I am not in the least bit interested in how this or that journalist (or pretending to be a journalist) feels or about their political beliefs.

  9. Teresa
    Teresa says:

    The feeding frenzy over every tidbit, especially in DC, is mind numbing. I used to be a political junky, loved all the stuff…but this is obscene. Basic common sense has been lost. Facts seem to be leaping between alternate realities. I think Be Calm is the best advise. Nicely done site, Lee!

  10. mcm0704
    mcm0704 says:

    Great post. As someone who started out as a journalist, I hesitate to even share that anymore. I do remember when news was news and editorials and feature stories were in a different section of the newspaper. That distinction blurred many years ago. Sigh….

  11. Marcy
    Marcy says:

    Great post. I miss the days when journalism was nonpartisan and reported facts. The tabloids used to be the only “media” that was skewed. Now it seems every time I turn on the television someone’s lying, elaborating, expanding, etc.

    Good advice as always. Thanks Lee.

  12. Gina Sestak
    Gina Sestak says:

    Nice site, Lee!

    I try to discern the fake news by first applying common sense. If it seems outlandishly unlikely, it probably is. That doesn’t mean it isn’t true, it just means that I need to do more research before I decide to believe it. The same applies to something that seems too good to be true. I also make sure that I don’t unfriend anyone because they post positions opposed to mine. In fact, I cultivate them. I actually have friends who post that Trump is the greatest president, the greatest leader, in the history of the world. That’s their opinion, and I can rely on their posts to provide alternative views.

  13. Morgan Mandel
    Morgan Mandel says:

    It’s so crazy lately. I never know what’s really real or isn’t. Lots of reports of people dying and they’re still alive. I usually Google if I see a report of a death and see how many articles are about it, and if they’re from sources that usually make sense or not.

  14. J. R. Lindermuth
    J. R. Lindermuth says:

    Back in my reporter days, we were told to stick to facts when writing a news story. Inserting an opinion made it an editorial–something entirely different from a news story. Some today seem to have forgotten the difference.

  15. Jay Faulkner
    Jay Faulkner says:

    “Lies hurt people.

    Lies are wrong.”

    …and yet lies seem to be the only media that certain ‘politicians’ (I had to work hard to get my fingers to type that word as it’s hard to call him/them that) seem to be able to tell on both sides of the pond, judging by how the UK and US leaders are speaking at the moment; maybe it has always been the way, maybe they are just not as good at hiding it, or maybe I’m a little more jaded. Who knows? 🙂

    Loving the site by the way! 🙂

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