One Way to Reduce Fake News

Regardless of their political views, most Americans think that “fake news” is a real problem.

And it is. Often on purpose.

Partisans flood the media with so much disinformation that it’s hard for anyone to know what’s happening. Even the perpetrators themselves get lost in their own web of lies.

News media hacks don’t care if their reporting is true. If it makes money or furthers their political agendas, then that’s all they want. For them, truth isn’t even a secondary concern. It’s a non-issue.

There’s no way to fix the problem completely. But a simple rule could reduce fake news:

NO QUESTIONS AS HEADLINES

NO QUESTIONS AS HEADLINES

NO QUESTIONS AS HEADLINES

None. Ever. The same applies to “news chyrons” at the bottom of the television screen. They can only be statements, never questions.

I don’t care which side you’re on. I don’t care how good you think your intentions are.

I don’t care if your question is “Does Hillary Clinton worship the Devil?” or “Does Donald Trump have sex with Harvey Weinstein?”

If you’ve got good evidence for something, then have the guts to make the headline a statement:

ASIAN STUDENTS DOMINATE ELITE HIGH SCHOOLS

Or if you’re pretty sure but there’s still some doubt:

EVIDENCE SUGGESTS MERIT SELECTION HAS DISPARATE IMPACT

But don’t think that just because someone talked to a guy who knew a guy whose college roommate’s uncle said that he might have heard something sketchy 30 years ago, you’re entitled to run a headline like:

DO SPACE ALIENS RUN STUYVESANT HIGH SCHOOL?

There will still be fake news, partly because there are so many fake reporters and editors. But banning the use of questions as headlines would eliminate a lot of it.


Check out my book Why Sane People Believe Crazy Things: How Belief Can Help or Hurt Social Peace. Kirkus Reviews called it an “impressively nuanced analysis.”

About N.S. Palmer

N.S. Palmer is an American mathematician.
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