Pair of Chicago journalists work on cure for the ‘infodemic’ of misinformation

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CHICAGO – The information age has become awash in misinformation, lies, and confusion, leading one observer to give this era a new description: the infodemic.

But two men with Chicago connections are working on a potential solution to the problem of “fake news” online.

A subscription service called NewsGuard employs a team of journalists who have reviewed about 6,000 web sites (the ones that generate the most engagement on social media platforms). They provide a sort of nutrition label for each of those sites that will let readers know if the site routinely engages in the spread of misinformation.

“We started about two and a half years ago,” said founder NewsGuard’s managing editor Jim Warren. “Our challenge is figuring out what to look at because there’s just so much junk.”

Meantime, at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism professor Larry Stuelpnagel is teaching a course called “Bad News” training the next generation of journalists how to spot false stories, and keep others from amplifying them in legitimate forums.

“Fake news is information that is intentionally disseminated via social media, via edited video, via things that purport to be newspapers that aren’t newspapers, and it is presented to the public as a fact, that it’s something the public should be paying attention to – but it’s really disinformation,” he said.

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