What is fake news: Understanding information disorder

Misinformation is rampant online, but how can journalists and the public identify and understand it? Experts recommend using precise terms like propaganda and lies rather than the vague “fake news,” categorizing types between disinformation, misinformation and malinformation, and being aware of techniques from clickbait to deepfakes. A guide from First Draft News breaks down best practices around terminology, classification, and vigilance against both outside disinformation efforts and internal editorial sloppiness. With complex factors at play, precision with language matters. Defining the specifics of information disorder helps journalists explain the issues at stake and effectively counter falsehoods.

  • Use specific terms like propaganda, lies, conspiracies, rumors, etc. rather than the vague “fake news” which has become meaningless.
  • Categorize types of misinformation as disinformation (intentionally false), misinformation (false but not intended to harm), and malinformation (genuine info shared to cause harm).
  • Be aware of various techniques like satire, clickbait, false context, imposter content, manipulated media, and fabricated content.
  • Satire when taken out of context can spread misinfo. Clickbait erodes trust. Genuine content can be reframed deceptively. Logos are used to give credibility. Images and videos can be altered. Wholly fabricated content spreads falsehoods.
  • Deepfakes using AI will be a growing challenge. News organizations should maintain high standards and not contribute to information pollution.
  • Definitions, categorization and using specific terms matters. Information disorder is complex with many elements so be as precise as possible when identifying and explaining different types.
  • For journalism students covering this topic, focusing on best practices around terminology, categorization, specific techniques used, and maintaining high editorial standards will help them explain it clearly.

Text generated by Claude.AI for class experiment.

other research

Publications: editor-reviewed

Fincham, K (2016) 11 Ways to Integrate Social Media into J-School Classes, MediaShift Retrieved at http://mediashift.org/ 2016/07/11-ways-integrate-social-media-j-school-classes/

Fincham, K (2015) How to Teach Data Journalism for Beginners. MediaShift. (Change in branding from PBS). Retrieved at http:// mediashift.org/2015/03/how-to-teach-data-journalism-for-beginners/

Fincham, K., Wright, L. (2014) Helping Journalism Faculty Bridge the Social Media Knowledge Gap. PBS MediaShift. Retrieved at http://www.mediashift.org/2014/12/


Fincham K (2014) 24 Hours of Immigration Reform Reporting on Twitter Poynter Foundation. Retrieved at http://www.poynter.org/news/305299/24-hours-of-immigration-reform-reporting-on-twitter/

Fincham, K (2014) 11 Steps to a Better Twitter Stream PBS MediaShift. Retrieved at http:// www.pbs.org/mediashift/2014/03/11-steps-to-a-better-twitter-stream/

Fincham, K (2013) How to keep a student news site updated with Rebel Mouse. Poynter Foundation. Retrieved at http://www.poynter.org/how-tos/journalism-education/213283/how-to-keep-a-student-news-site-updated-with-rebelmouse/

Fincham, K (2012) Hofstra students text, tweet and Facebook for Hurricane Sandy reporting ONA Issues. Retrieved at http://onaissues.tumblr.com/post/34840927775/


Fincham, K (2012) What every young journalist should know about using Twitter Poynter Foundation. http://www.poynter.org/how-tos/journalism-education/188408/what-every-young-journalist-should-know-about-using-twitter/

Fincham, K. (2012). 7 ways journalists can make better ethical decisions when using Facebook Poynter Foundation. Retrieved at http://www.poynter.org/how-tos/digital-strategies/176649/8-ways-journalists-can-make-better-ethical-decisions-when-using-facebook/

Fincham, K. (2012). How journalism educators can use Coursekit to enhance classroom learning Poynter Foundation. Retrieved at http:/ /www.poynter.org/how-tos/journalism-education/164950/how-journalism-educators-can-use-coursekit-to-enhance-classroom-learning

Fincham, K. (2012) Connecting the dots on data journalism. Poynter Foundation. Retrieved from http:// www.poynter.org/how-tos/digital-strategies/162131/journalists-connect-the-dots-between-data-reporting-at-columbia-j-school-hackathon

Fincham, K. (2011) 4 Ways journalism educators are using Storify as a teaching tool. Poynter Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.poynter.org/how-tos/journalism-education/153565/4-ways-journalism-educators-are-using-storify-as-a-teaching-tool/

Fincham, K. (2011). Storify the news: making sense of 140 million tweets a day. Convergence. Retrieved from Convergence Newsletter at USC Columbia http://sc.edu/cmcis/news/convergence/v8no8.html#10

Fincham, K. (2011) Using Storify for journalism education. Storify. Retrieved from http:// storify.com/kellyfincham/using-storify-for-journalism-education

Fincham, K. (2011). Social media and 9.11 / A legacy of silent voices. Irish Examiner. Retrieved from http:// www.examiner.ie/weekend/a-legacy-of-silent-voices-166899.html

Fincham, K. (2011) Storify in the classroom. Journal of Media Literacy. Retrieved from http://jmle.org/blog/?p=495

Presentations: Invited

Fincham K, (2017, February) Presenter and panelist, How Did Social Media Change the 2016 Presidential Race? Kalikow School of Government, Public Policy and International Affairs, Hofstra

Fincham K, (2017, February) Panelist, The New Social Media: Protecting Yourself From Fake News, Social Media Symposium, Hofstra

Fincham K, (2016, December) Presenter, Towards a hybrid media system, Faculty Research Presentation, Hofstra University.

Fincham K, (2015, August) Moderating, Presiding Panelist and Presenter:  Promises and Pitfalls, Teaching Social Media News Practices to the Digitally Active, AEJMC National Conference, San Francisco.

Fincham K, (2014, August) Panelist, Tweet This: Two Weeks on the Social Media Frontlines, AEJMC National Conference, Montreal, Canada.

Fincham K. (2014, August) Teaching tools with IFTTT.com. Editing breakfast, AEJMC National Conference. Montreal, Canada.

Fincham K, Bui, K. (2013, August). Curation Station – Social Media Strategies for Breaking News. Society of Professional Journalists National Conference. Anaheim, California

Fincham, K, (2013, August) Presenter and panelist, Big ideas and best practice for student-produced news. AEJMC National Conference, Washington, D.C.

Fincham K. (2013, August). Teaching editing tips. Editing breakfast, AEJMC National Conference. Washington, D.C.

Fincham K. (2013, April). Copy editing for the digital age, New York Press Association Conference, Saratoga, N.Y.

Fincham K. (2013, February) Tweet That Assignment – A survey of best practice in social media education, panel, Journalism Interactive Conference, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida

Fincham K. (2013, February) Teaching social media, panel, Journalism Interactive Conference, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida

Fincham K. (2012, September). Copy editing in the digital age. Society of Professional Journalists National Conference, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Fincham, K. (2012, October). Social media ethics panel. Communication of Choice and Consequence. The New York State Communication Association, Ellenville, N.Y.

Fincham, K (2012, March) Speaker, Social media panel, Region 1, Society of Professional Journalists Conference, Stony Brook University, N.Y.

Fincham, K. (2011, October). Chair, Research Panel: Social Media: Making and Breaking Connections. Annual conference. The New York State Communication Association, Ellenville, N.Y.