Journalism: What role does the media still have as a fourth power in the state? Between the Lines
Anyone who has ever travelled to India and talked to a merchant or rickshaw driver can quickly realize that Indians are very communicative who love to disseminate their views on God and the world and do not shy away from criticizing the conditions in their country. This joy of opinion and communication seems to be an Indian trait that the Indian Nobel Prize winner and economist Amartya Sen has explored in his book "The Argumentative Indian".
However, this is also an expression of intensive media consumption in a country that regards itself as "the world's largest democracy" and is home to one of the world's largest and most diverse media markets. Under the sway of digitization, a long economic boom, and the needs of a new, urban-oriented middle class, this media market has, however, changed and developed dramatically over the past 25 years - largely unnoticed by the rest of the world. Perhaps it is time to cast a closer eye over this market.
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Read closely and all the way to the end of each article: a lot of news is nowhere near as sensational as the headlines suggest. Fake news is often given lurid headlines that serve as clickbait to lure more readers and spread faster.
Fake news, especially AI-generated material, often contains grammatical errors and/or unusual formatting. Stylistic errors may also suggest that the writing has not been professionally edited, in which case you ought to be sceptical about the information.
Does the information come from a source you’re familiar with? Is the URL (web address) really correct? Many sites that post bogus reports imitate well-known news sources. If you’re not familiar with a particular source, check the legal notice to find out who’s responsible for the content and who finances the website. Do the website operators provide their address and contact information? Fake news sites often have no physical address. Satirical sites, on the other hand, explicitly state that their "news" is not true.
Check whether a news item is really up to date and reflects the current situation. Some hoaxes still get passed on long after having been debunked. Furthermore, many bogus reports contain incorrect dates and place names.
Do the institutions and documents to which the article refers really exist? Are the quoted statements fully accurate? Many bogus items cite respected institutions or public figures but distort or make up facts. Referring to unnamed experts or failing to cite any sources may also be a tell-tale sign of fake news.
Make sure to distinguish whether the author is reporting objective information or expressing a subjective opinion. Articles containing subjective assessments or emotional language primarily reflect the author's opinion, which does not necessarily correspond to reality.
Our own memory and judgment are not fail-proof. Certain ways of wording and presenting information and certain kinds of content make articles appear more credible to us than others. And fabricators of fake news take advantage of this phenomenon. So don’t necessarily trust your first impression. Instead, thoroughly check any content that strikes you as particularly sensationalistic.
Whenever possible, try to consult various sources with different points of view. This is also a good way of checking the veracity of seemingly sensational reports: if a news item only appears in a single, obscure source, it may well be bogus.