Fact Checking: A Contender For The Fifth Estate
Politics and Activism

Fact Checking: A Contender For The Fifth Estate

Is this the end of "reliable" news as we know it? Can news outlets salvage their reputation or is this the end of an era?


A month or so ago, I acquired a copy of Time magazine that was dramatically titled “Is Truth Dead.” At first glance, I was taken aback by the sensationalist take on the attack on media. It seemed to me that Time magazine attempted to ally themselves with the New York Times' recent advertisement message about “seeking the truth.”

These two images resonated with me. It’s like both Time magazine and The New York Times are fighting the war on the fourth estate by throwing the rest of the other publications under the bus by criticizing media and it’s allegiance to the truth and objective reporting.

While yes, part of the problem is that journalism nowadays is less reliable because it focuses more on hiding facts to exemplify others due to slanted agendas, I strongly believe that the audience, being agents in the co-active process between message and receiver, is responsible for the information that they digest. That being said I still believe that the whole point of the news is that people shouldn’t be given reason to have to fact check the news. It is the news outlets responsibility to conduct an ethical form of journalism and at the very least report truths.

Due to recent political turbulence, what with Trump's rise to power and the incurring and growing scrupulous suspicions about media’s “truthfulness,” I strongly believe that there has never been such a need for fact checking than right now. Throughout the 2016 elections, conspiracy theories and mistruths have been fired in all directions and fact checking has been given the spotlight.

It has now become more than just “sub-genre of journalism” according to NPR, but an essential tool growing in importance. Words like “alternative facts” have been thrown around by the Trump administration, but no actions have been taken to reduce the consistent production of these “facts.” Rather, the administration has turned to blaming the media’s incapability to report in accordance to their journalistic code. This has eventually escalated in "blame game" rather than the respective parties taking responsibility for their own actions.

In the past decade, 24 out of the 29 fact checking platforms were created to keep from the dangerous fabrication of falsehoods in media. There are many reasons for fact checking, but I strongly believe that there are two main sources which play into Paul Lazarsfeld’s Two-Step Flow of Communication Model. His mode includes mass media and opinion leaders. For instance, during the elections, Trump had repeatedly declared that Obama and Clinton had “founded ISIS.”

The Associated Press, The Guardian, and NBC News Correspondent Hallie Jackson denounced this declaration as “patently false.” However, despite these prolific news organization denouncing the claim, other outlets such as the The New York Times (who ironically stresses the “accuracy of events” and “all the news fit to print”) are repeating the claims without noting that they are in fact false. This includes online publications by ABC News and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. In this case, Trump plays the role of the source of the content and the opinion leaders that are distributing these falsehoods are the news outlets like The New York Times, ABC News and The South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

According to the Poynter Institute, fact checking is booming worldwide. There are currently over 100 fact-checking outlets worldwide that sift through statements of politicians. Fact checking platforms have increased over 50 percent in the past year. The readiness facilitated by these fact-checking outlets to the public is immediate in the cyber public sphere.

For example, CNN has even utilized the chyron headlines at the bottom of the screen for parenthetical fact checking. With the increasing air of distrust around media, outlets such as FactCheck.org, The Washington Post Fact-Checker and Politifact have shown promising user growth, as the fact-checking is instantaneous and includes a short description of the inaccuracy of the falsehoods perpetrated by public figures and officials.

While I strongly believe that all news organization should call out falsehoods in everyday coverage of speeches, campaign commercials, and political debates, I still believe that people should retain a degree of responsibility to fact check their own news. As autonomous beings with free will, we shouldn’t be so naive as to bend and believe every word that comes out from the mouths of our surrounding opinion leaders. We must take care to remain as informed as we can about our surroundings and make sure that the facts don’t stem from ad hominem statements and non-sequitur arguments.

This brings us to the unavoidable question: has the U.S’s media reliability peaked and is scheduled for an eternal, Cormac McCarthian “post-fact” landscape? I personally believe that it’s not the case at all. I think of the media’s reliability as more of an unremitting line graph with time as the indicator for the x-axis and reliability as the indicator of the y-axis.

While there is a decline in reliability, I don’t think that audiences can afford to lose the fourth estate because of it’s defying nature. While media reliability is dwindling, it’s being salvaged by these fact checking websites acting as an additional hand operating in the “fifth estate” where it’s an additional institution to keep the media news reporting in check. With the increase of readiness of these fact checkers, while I risk sounding optimistic, I do think that media reliability will one day restore its legitimacy.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Health and Wellness

This Survey Shows How Quarantine And Drinking Relate, And I Can't Say I'm Surprised

"5 o'clock somewhere" is more of a guideline now than ever.

As it stands, and my friends and I are finally 21. We're extremely excited to be able to go out to bars and "get lit" as the kids say, but due to the pandemic, all of our plans have been put on hold. We'd rather wait and go when it's safe than risk spreading the infection and hurting our loved ones. So, we've all been quarantining apart, getting on the occasional wine zoom call. This made me wonder if anyone else our age were doing the same thing.

Then, I discovered this survey: We Surveyed Millennials And Gen Z About Their Quarantine Drinking Habits — Cheers. Here are 3 things that I discovered through the survey results.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

Feel A Lil' Better: Because Those Hormones Aren't Gonna Balance Themselves

Your weekly wellness boost from Odyssey.

No matter how good (or bad) you'd describe your health, one thing is for sure: a little boost is ALWAYS a good idea. Whether that's reading a new, motivating book, or listening to a song that speaks to your soul, there are plenty of resources to help your health thrive on any given day.

It's common knowledge that your hormones impact practically every aspect of your body. Weight gain, acne, mental health... it's all related to your hormonal health. If your life is treating your body like the superstar it is, your endocrine glands should produce the perfect amount of each hormone to keep you running like a well-oiled machine. This is a nice thought, sure. In our current society, even the most balanced person you know may be missing an important aspect of respecting their body. Things like sleep, stress, diet, exercise, and a busy pace of life can throw hormones off balance and negatively impact your general wellbeing. Sometimes these imbalances are noticed right away, while other times they can be smaller — annoying, but not as obvious.

Keep Reading... Show less

One of the biggest discomforts I initially had with the stay-at-home order was feeling trapped and isolated from what was going on outside the walls of my house. Add that to living in a massive city, where social distancing is nearly impossible when doing something as simple as walking down the street.

Keep Reading... Show less

There is no such thing as a defined beauty industry. For those who believe so, it's time to open your eyes and look around you. Chilling in LA, Beauty Beez has been marketing the beauty industry towards people of color. Not to mention, Beauty Beez is a Black-owned beauty store. They have their own beauty bar that provides threading, waxing, facials, and braiding!

With the client at the center of the experience, our diverse group of professional and knowledgeable beauty experts are able to effectively educate and assist, while you explore. - Beauty Beez

You bet their fabulous mission statement was created by a female entrepreneur. Her name is Brittney Ogike and she is a mompreneur with a career in sports management. Beauty Beez came to life through mere observation or the lack of.

Keep Reading... Show less

I've always been a picture hoarder. No matter what happens with someone or how many pictures I have of the same thing, I hate deleting pictures. They all serve as memories to me, which is something I think is super important.

Keep Reading... Show less

These Phoebe Buffay Outfits Prove She's A '90s Fashion Icon — We're Replicating EVERY Single One

In case you needed another reason to love our favorite coffee shop singer.


I've always been described as the Phoebe of my friend group — not just for being a vegan, animal-loving people pleaser, but also for the false sense of confidence in my singing and athleticism.

I consider it a compliment to be labeled a Phoebe. Besides her general warmth, I was always drawn to her hippy-chic vibes and passion for environmentalism before it was even cool to be vegan or to care about the planet. The way she carelessly ran through parks flailing her limbs without a care mimicked her effortlessly eccentric style.

Keep Reading... Show less

'Tis the season for wedding fun and if you're hosting or helping plan a bachelorette party for the bride-to-be, you're going to want it to be a blast. Whether it's a social distance soiree or a virtual party, games will always spice up the time with the gals, so if you're looking for a fun and easy one to get the party started (and everyone drunk), this game is for you.

What's the name of the game? "Drink If: Bachelorette Party Edition." Here's how it works.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

I Talked To My Friend About Her Cystic Fibrosis And Wow, CF Patients Are WARRIORS

Not many people can say they've had a double lung transplant.

Alissa Katz

Forty percent of the United States lives with a chronic disease. These diseases are unique in their own way, but one thing is the same — every individual who lives with a chronic condition faces obstacles because of their disease.

Not only do these illnesses require a lot of education for the individuals who have them, but for the community as a whole. The more we as a society know about these diseases, the more well-rounded (and ideally, helpful) we'll be. If anything, we'll have a greater appreciation for the strength individuals with chronic conditions show on a daily basis.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments