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4 ways to fix "fake news"

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

While speaking at my alma mater, the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, I was asked by several students how to restore faith and trust in media.

The big picture: Here are four fairly provocative ideas to tackle that issue — one each for politicians, social media, reporters and individuals.

  • Politicians: Stop using the term "fake news." The worst thing for a country is having people believe lies, or trust nothing. One day soon, something bad will happen, and it will take faith in information to fix it. You erode trust at our collective peril. 
  • Media: News organizations should ban their reporters from doing anything on social media — especially Twitter — beyond sharing stories. Snark, jokes and blatant opinion are showing your hand, and it always seems to be the left one. This makes it impossible to win back the skeptics. 
  • Social media companies: Radically self-regulate, or allow government regulation to stanch, the flow of disinformation or made-up news. Maybe it takes a new FCC of social media to force the same standards as expected from TV stations and newspapers. One thing is for sure: The current self-policing isn't cutting it.
  • You: We all want to fault others, but each of us is very much to blame. Quit sharing stories without even reading them. Quit tweeting your every outrage. Quit clicking on garbage. Spend a few minutes to verify the trustworthiness of what you read.

Be smart ... Remember: If your Facebook feed is filled with garbage, it means you were reading garbage in the first place. The algorithm simply gives you more of what you crave.

P.S. The Axios social media policy, which applies to all our colleagues, prohibits the sharing of political views or derogatory snark online: "Don’t say anything on the internet that you wouldn’t publish under your byline or say on TV."

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