Fact, fiction or fake news

By Sandi Soendker, editor-in-chief

Did you know that Kurt Cobain predicted back in 1993 that "someone like Donald Trump" would one day be elected president? Or that President Obama and Michelle have secretly been divorced for a year because she is gay? You’ve probably read the latest on Hillary, so you know that she and Bill murdered Justice Scalia and the FBI has it on video.

Those and more stories were shared with me recently by readers, friends and acquaintances via social media. Friends who obviously don’t check sources … because stories like this are pure hooey. They come from fake news sites that publish false information and outrageous "facts" about people or issues on the internet. They look and sound like real news outlets, but the stories they peddle are completely unsubstantiated crap.

Millions of gullible readers share this outrageous stuff every single day thinking that it’s real. They can create hoaxes with just a retweet or "share" – or worse, they actually believe it and send it on to others who fall for it, too, and they share. To be convincing, some sites mix some real news with stupid reports. Fake news sites like "National Report" and "World News Daily Report" are utterly shameless. Recently, someone shared with me the "first successful head transplant" and the 76-year-old mom "getting kicked out of KFC for breastfeeding her 42-year-old son."

Sites like "The Onion" are obviously satire. So is The New Yorker’s "Andy Borowitz" Report, but that one has fooled a lot of people.

Fake news is a viral phenomenon that may have been amusing at first, but during the presidential election turned really ugly. The public’s appetite for so-called "click-bait" is appalling. During November’s election, Facebook was invaded by no-apologies-offered purveyors of trash stories on both Trump and Hillary. Critics are now saying a steady diet of real-looking misinformation may have influenced voter loyalty. Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg said no way, but the latest news is that advertising may be restricted on these pages. Drying up that revenue surely would help in the eradication process.

The coming year will be a tricky one, sure to be one full of changes. The news will test your BS meters like never before. It’s critical that you turn that meter on high when you read a shocking newsflash and before you decide that you believe it. Then confirm your sources before you pass it on or hit "share."