Exploring Perceptions of Fake News Using Situational Theories
Perez, Felicia Russell
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The purpose of this study was to understand how the younger generations of eligible voters perceive fake news and distinguish it from truth. In this exploratory study, the situational theory of publics and situational theory of problem solving provided the theoretical framework to investigate how these eligible voters, ages 18 – 28, define and identify fake news, how they believe the issue can be combatted and what characteristics they draw upon to recognize fake news. For this study, qualitative focus groups were conducted to measure media literacy and information-seeking behaviors. Findings suggest that the younger population identifies fake news as propaganda, advertising, satire, bad journalism, complete falsehoods and through cultural lexicon. While they perceive fake news as a problem, few have insight on how to solve it. Furthermore, this age demographic receives their information primarily through social media and social influencers. While many studied are latent or aware publics, the younger generations show a high tendency to become active on hot topic issues. This study is a fusion of journalism and public relations communication as it expands upon situational theories and media literacy theory. Practical implications include suggested factors to prevent the spread of fake news by improving media communication tactics.