What is Fake News? A Foundational Question for Developing Effective Critical News Literacy Education


  • Nolan Higdon


Since the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, policy makers, scholars, and critics have increasingly warned about the dangers associated with fake news. In response, they have proposed numerous solutions to fake news, media literacy being one frequently mentioned. However, there is currently no agreed upon definition of fake news or its origins and practices. Scholars cannot develop effective pedagogy to address fake news without a deep
understanding and firm definition of fake news. As a result, this study employs a critical-historical lens of a media ecosystem framework to define fake news. The data for this study came from three areas; an extensive review of scholarship in the Communication, History, Media Studies, and Media Education disciplines; newspaper and congressional archives; and news stories. My methodology identified the producers of fake news; the purpose behind the production of false or misleading content; the themes found in fake news content; and the consequences associated with the consumption of false and misleading information. The
findings of this study serve as a foundational basis for the development of a critical news literacy program.