Deciding what's real versus fake news


Remember the old advertisements with the slogan “Is it live or is it Memorex?” That company touted its cassette tape quality, saying listeners couldn’t distinguish between a recording on one of its cassettes and a live performance.

Today, we are faced with the question of “Is it real or is it fake?” when dealing with our digest of news. We have a president who insists some news is “fake,” “failing,” “disgusting,” “corrupt,” and the hundreds of thousands of journalists around the nation are “enemies of the American people.” Wow.

I recently spoke to the Gillespie County Republicans group here and there definitely is a trend that what’s real and what’s fake sometimes follows our political leanings. I thought it might be helpful to refresh from our college Journalism 101 classes in college about just what constitutes news.

Editors and reporters look for these six most important characteristics of what determines if something is “news”:

Timeliness — Journalists stress current information. They also look for fresh angles and try to dig up some background on the information. For a weekly newspaper, that can be more difficult, but we use our website and Facebook to update the public on important situations, such as the bomb threat at Fredericksburg High School a couple of years ago (which thankfully turned out to be a hoax).

Impact — If it affects readers physically or emotionally. When your taxes go up, that is news because it affects your wallet.

Prominence — If Joe Blow catches pneumonia, it is not news except to that person’s family and friends. But if the U.S. president catches pneumonia, it can affect the leadership of the country, the stock market and other areas.

Proximity — The closer an event is to home, the more newsworthy it becomes. A tornado in Iowa is not necessarily news to us here in Gillespie County, but a tornado that destroys a Fredericksburg water facility, such as happened in recent times, was news for our readers.

Singularity (or novelty) — Deviations from the normal are more newsworthy than the commonplace. Unexpected or unusual events, like the Turner Hall fire, drama or change get people’s attention.


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