Identifying real news over fake news: input from Courtney Hanks


Carson Francis

Acknowledging student journalists and the freedom of press, the Journalism Education Association holds their annual Student Journalism Week, which is taking place from Feb. 17 to Feb. 23 this year.

In response to following Tuesday’s theme for Real News, journalism teacher and UHSpress adviser Courtney Hanks explained what real news is and how to identify the fake news circulating the media.

“Real news is going to be news that’s unbiased and based on fact and reason,” Hanks said. “Fake news is going to be [news] that is intentionally created to mislead the public. Fake news gives out information that’s out of context or been manipulated in some way that makes it inaccurate and aids people into believing things that aren’t true.”

Fake news can be a misleading term, and Hank’s students often hold misconceptions about it. They sometimes believe a legitimate news source is reporting false information. However, fake news is more often purposefully made false reports from illegitimate news outlets, meant to distract, mislead and confuse.

“When you’re watching the typical news stations and reading the news that you trust, generally you are getting real, accurate news,” Hanks said. “There may be bias or one-sided reporting, but it most likely really happened. But, you should always be comparing news stations and news sites against each other so that way you are getting a more full picture.”

Identifying fake news is a lesson Hanks takes seriously when teaching journalism 1 students, as these lessons allow the students to explore different ways to fact check claims made by news stations or sites. With upper level journalism students, how they approach accurate reporting is key.

“As far as creating real news writing, it’s important that student journalists understand that bias is something that needs to be only in opinion pieces,” Hanks said. “A lot of times, they assume that something is true. They just run with that fact rather than just trying to find that evidence to back it up from the start. Writing news for journalism really has to do with your own assumptions and finding facts to back it up if you have a thought that you think is true.”

Media literacy involves the participation of the viewer. Hanks values this skill as a key element to being an informed, educated citizen.

“I don’t think that we can sit back and just take information in anymore,” Hanks said. “I think that’s where I get my joy from teaching it to kids, that I know that I’m teaching them a skill. If they aren’t media literate, and if they’re unable to identify information that’s meant to mislead them, then our entire country may no longer exist. It’s extremely important to me, and I think that it might be one of the most important skills that are being taught in schools currently. “