How science will explain and fix fake news

That’s why fact-checking is not only futile; it is also barely relevant. Instead of hopelessly chasing errors in each story that pops up, we should routinely and openly audit the journalistic practices of reporters and news platforms. Audits can be performed by associations like Newseum, or startups like NewsGuard that survey and monitor news reporting practices. Consider how financial audits that bring trust to stock markets certify the controls of a corporate Finance Department rather than the specific numbers reported to Wall Street. This is a more tractable and relevant approach to fixing the problem, helping us critically assess news in real time based on the source, just as we do in deciding which scientific articles to believe. A peer-respected author from a media outlet with disciplined editorial practices generates both credible science and credible news.

Although most people do not become professional scientists, we teach the scientific method to all students to develop critical thinking skills, appreciate scientific work, and reject pseudoscientific claims. We must similarly teach journalism to all high school students if we want a society that appreciates the difference between journalism and fake news, and has the tools to distinguish them. In fact, these classes can directly contribute to the solution, by openly scrutinizing reporters’ work on Wiki pages that everyone can see. Such a significant corpus of journalistic reviews would yield strong signals to the public.