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fake news

Mike MacKenzie / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCLO

Not that long ago, most of us had never hear the oxymoron, "fake news."

But now, following the presidential campaign and election, it's hard to go a day without hearing those words. What is real and what is fake has become a critical issue for our country.

That's why the University of Michigan Library has joined with the College of Literature, Science and the Arts to create a new class on fake news. It's a one-credit course called "Fake News, Lies and Propaganda: How to Sort Fact from Fiction."

man reading newspaper with fake news written on it
Mike MacKenzie / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCLO

A conservative news website is busy pumping out stories on political candidates. The stories quickly take off on social media as people share them with friends and family.

But a closer look at the website, called Conservative Intel LLC of Grand Rapids, reveals it isn't a news operation at all.

Yesterday, before President Trump sent out his tweets about the hosts of the Morning Joe program, I was interviewed by a radio host in another city.

He asked something to the effect of whether CNN and other mainstream journalism outlets actually put out fake news? I answered that they never do -- that while respected news outlets do make mistakes, they never invent news to push a political agenda.

What was most dismaying was that the question was asked at all.

The Onion

Fake news has become ubiquitous, and it's more sophisticated and thus harder to spot, say communications experts at the University of Michigan.

In response, they'll offer a free online course on Friday, "Fake News, Facts, and Alternative Facts" on the edX website, which universities use to offer free classes to the public.

Brian Weeks teaches communication studies.  He says it's good news that Google and Facebook are launching new tools to help people try to determine if something is true.  But he thinks the best strategy is citizen education.

Less than two weeks ago, President Donald Trump launched his latest Twitter attack on the nation’s most important newspaper, the New York Times. 

Flint water crisis protest
steve carmody / Michigan Radio

President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama had a hand in last week's grant of $100 million to address the lead in the drinking water crisis in Flint, despite a report that seeks to give Trump credit for the funding.

The report also says Obama refused to give money to Flint, which is false.

BRANDON NGUYEN / FLICKR

A new class at the University of Michigan hopes to help students be savvier news consumers.

The course, called "Fake News, Lies, and Propaganda: How to Sort Fact From Fiction", will be available next fall.

Angie Oehrli is a University of Michigan librarian who helped develop the course. She hopes the class will provide tangible skills for students to recognize and avoid fabricated stories that pass themselves off as legitimate news.