Fake news has become a prominent topic of public discussion, particularly in mass media. Recent research has explored the prevalence of fake news during the 2016 election cycle and possible effects on electoral outcomes. Through an experiment conducted by the University of Texas, the elite discourse about fake news on the public’s evaluation of news media was explored. This quantitative method was created using a 2 x 2 between subject design, where they manipulated whether participants were or were not primed by discourse about fake news and whether they received real or fake news articles. The chosen method and design for this study produced valid contributions to the mass communication field. As it turns out, the results collected by the University of Texas showed that exposure to elite discourse about fake news leads to lower levels of trust in media and less accurate identification of real news. Therefore, frequent discussion of fake news may affect whether individuals trust news media and the standards with which they evaluate it.
Through an introductory geography course at Purdue University, a mixed-method design was used to examine the impact of a news literacy program on 108 students that were enrolled in the course. A qualitative analysis of the 108 students written essays produced valid contributions about fake news, by presenting empirical evidence of their perceptions of fake news in terms of content (what), purpose (why), and source (who). The results show that there are some gaps in students’ perceptions of fake news. For example, some believe established media will not broadcast fake news. In fact, the mainstream media might do so, and if students uncritically trust traditionally reliable sources for everything, they will run into trouble and may pass on fake news themselves.
I believe that the method used in the research provided by the University of Texas was clearer than the research provided from Purdue University. The use of an experiment was well thought-out and provided objective data that can be clearly communicated through statistics and unbiased numbers. I also found their study to be significantly relatable as I am someone who lost a lot of trust in the media after its influence on spreading fake news in the 2016 presidential race.
Purdue’s research, however, was a method that I couldn’t find clarity in. Their exploratory study of undergraduate students’ news consumption and perceptions of fake news in an introductory course in geography, which required scientific news information on geography-related topics, was very random. I believe that further research is required to investigate how students consume and perceive of fake news on other STEM disciplines. This study was also limited in that there was a small sample size used. To help determine the generalizability of the results, future studies with a large number of students at multiple institutions and a longer study period across multiple semesters will be necessary.