Fake News and Fake Academia: A Real Problem in Higher Ed

While the discussion of fake news may seem like old news, it is not a topic that we can afford to leave behind. As we start 2017, filled with hope and good intentions, we must keep the pitfalls and deceptions of the past year at the forefront of our minds. Not only is fake news an issue in mainstream media, but has started to raise concerns in the world of academia as well, making post-secondary students privy to deception both within and outside of the classroom.

Academia

Ambiguous guidelines in academia and an oversupply of fresh-faced PhD holders, eager to get published, have created the ideal environment for fraudulent journals to produce low-quality publications, at the financial- and sometimes, professional- expense of well-intentioned authors. If those belonging to the academic community are falling victim to these deceptions, what does this mean for the post-secondary students accessing these seemingly credible resources? As the issue of predatory open-access journals continues to gain attention worldwide, there is sure to be greater focus on the need for discernment between the legitimate and the imposters- among the authors producing and submitting quality content as well as the students seeking reliable information.

Mainstream Media

It is not enough to say that we are in an era of information-sharing. Rather, we are deeply immersed in an ongoing multi-modal exchange, where quality sometimes gives way to quantity, meaningfulness to shock-value, and advocacy to self-promotion. Fake and misleading publications leave readers and consumers misinformed, intensify any preconceived biases, and do little to promote the importance of responsible journalism, media literacy, and scholarly integrity. In fact, they challenge these qualities.

Engaging in Participatory Culture

As seen in both academia and mainstream media, the need for critical analysis is becoming increasingly salient among both producers and consumers of information and content. Using social media to extend the reach of fake news stories by passively liking and sharing them across various social media platforms is allowing fabricated stories and unsupported facts to gain attention and have true impact. This chain of events bares resemblance to the careless practices of fraudulent academic journals, doesn’t it?

There are many brilliant voices in academia and mainstream media, wanting to speak the truth, advance innovation, and provoke positive change. Allowing these voices to be heard means silencing nonsense and deception. As participatory culture permeates the web- and society as a whole- we have more of a responsibility than ever to do our own research and question all that we see and read. Post-secondary students must not only do so before sharing content over the multitude of platforms available to them online, but also while gathering and analyzing information for educational purposes.

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Source Referenced:

Rubin, E. (2017). The problem of predatory journals: Fake academia joins fake news. Nonprofit Quarterly. Retrieved from https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2017/01/04/problem-predatory-journals-fake-academia-joins-fake-news/