BuzzFeed News recently published a shocking analysis of news stories shared on Facebook in the months leading up to the election. According to this report, the most popular fake news stories, which were overwhelmingly in favor of the Republican presidential candidate, outperformed the most popular articles from real news organizations. Many, including President Barack Obama and Mark Zuckerberg, have expressed their intent to counter this startling trend, but there is a larger issue with how information is spread in these high-tech times.
Specifically on the university level, publications like The Odyssey have damaged journalism by providing a professional sphere to anyone with a keyboard and an opinion. The publication began as a student-run newspaper, but in the last few years it has expanded to include hundreds of campuses across the country and now publishes over 2,000 articles each week. As the pieces are shared thousands of times across social media, more and more viewers click on catchy titles, see a polished website and read underdeveloped yet agreeable articles. Despite its promises to provide relevant content and multiple perspectives, The Odyssey will never be able to do so.
There are no qualifications needed to write for The Odyssey, and that is not a good thing. Reporters for large media organizations have worked hard to get to their position, and this can be seen in their work. The Odyssey, on the other hand, is flooded with submissions that lack nuance and accountability and is not an example of constructive citizen journalism. Supporters of the company may point to BuzzFeed as a similar website that lists serious news pieces right next to lighthearted entertainment, but it is a real media organization with firsthand sources and qualified staff. Furthermore, with so many The Odyssey pieces bombarding timelines every hour, no reader is actually exposed to opposing perspectives on their website, nor is anyone able to filter out worthy journalism from the rest.
Unedited fluff pieces certainly have a place on the internet. By no means is it problematic to publish a personal blog, but presenting this as real journalism is not only irresponsible, but also downright dangerous. Real news sites are bound to hold their editors and contributors — even those expressing opinions — to higher journalistic standards. Those interested in writing for the masses during their college years can easily join their on-campus publications and improve their own reasoning and writing skills at the same time. This is not possible on The Odyssey, which has circulated articles like I Hate Millennials, The Worst Girls You Meet In College, I Am A Female And I Am So Over Feminists and other vapid rants posted next to pieces reporting on serious events, such as the Ohio State knife attack. At a time when the President-elect has threatened freedom of the press, it is now more important than ever that Americans reject all kinds of fake news sites and support the genuine article.
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