I’m not saying that you have to trust everything that mainstream media tells you but I would give it more weight than I would give to an unverified source.
The other thing you should do is don’t spread fake news. Fake news grows exponentially because you share it, either because it validates your beliefs or because you don’t know it’s fake news. So check it, don’t spread it, hold those of your friends who do spread it to account. Make sure they don’t do that. There’s some salacious fantastic stuff on the internet and as much as you’d like to believe it if it turns out not to be true it’s on you.
And in a world where your reputation is determined on social media in many cases, if you become known as someone who like your crazy uncle who forwards these email strings that make no sense people will stop trusting you. They just won’t trust the information, it becomes the boy who cried wolf.
Look, journalism is a serious business. You have to understand how to consume it. You have to cross-reference it but you have to trust certain things. Everywhere I have worked has had a methodology for checking otherwise uncorroborated information. It varies from organization to organization but typically you need two independent sources who can tell you the same thing or at least one source that is very highly placed. And if you don’t do that, if you don’t do it that way you could get fired. Is the source that you’re reading as rigorous as that?
Look journalism is getting better. Crowdsourcing is out there. Facebook is using member reporting as well as algorithms to try and weed out fake news. Wikipedia is getting better by the day and the hunger is out there for good quality journalism.
Remember what journalism is meant to do. It has two purposes. The first one is to bear witness to simply be there to say that something is happening.
But the second one is more important. It’s to hold power to account and together let’s not go down a road where we end up in a world where not only are we not speaking truth to power but we’re not even able to discern the truth.