A fabricated rumor of the AHS mascot transitioning from the “Warriors” to the “W’s” infiltrated student conversation and social media over the last few weeks.

This rumor was initially born in an AHS first block journalism class, in which teacher Mr. Aubrey and his students hoped to pursue a project to explore the spread of fake news in the context of AHS. With the approval of Principal Mr. Conrad, Aubrey and his students worked collaboratively to incite student interest and study how a falsified claim spreads via social media within a population such as our student body.

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Although the credibility of the rumor was called into question in several online Andover forums, including class and community Facebook pages, the attention that the story received signifies that it did infiltrate conversation as a true fake news story potentially would. According to Aubrey, however, spreading an entertaining false claim was in no regard the purpose of the assignment. “The true intent of the project was not to spread a lie, but rather to document how people respond to fake news,” Aubrey said. “It’s one thing to read about fake news and the effect it can have on the world; it’s another thing to see the effect on your own community.”

The claims of a mascot change were first introduced through the use of fliers designed by one of the involved journalism students. The posters were designed to look official, and even prompted students to send new logo design submissions to a legitimate email address. Despite this, the posters did lack the administration’s stamp of approval, and thus were brought under scrutiny by many students on social media. This lack of verification is a huge red flag for false news claims, as can be extrapolated from the informative suggestions compiled by the journalism students in question.

According to the students, a few tips to remember when determining whether a news story is real include:

  • overly sensational or shocking headlines

  • published by disreputable publications with no editorial standards

  • no author or have a fake author

Luckily, many students proved to already be savvy news consumers, and failed to believe the hoax. A substantial amount of others, however, believed it in it’s entirety and reacted as thus through contacting the provided email, Mr. Conrad, and expressing their opinions on social media.

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In regards to the significance of being able to identify fake news, Ms. Robb, teacher of Media and Society classes at AHS, shared that this skill is increasingly important in today’s society, as well as revealing a few of her suggestions for media consumers. According to Robb, students should “check more than one source for the story they’re investigating… if you see a story, and it sounds kind of out there, check two or three other sources… it might let you know what the bias of the story is… or if you can’t find the story anywhere else, it’s probably fake news.”

 

By Laura O’Brien, Gabe Deacon, and Julia Jaime Rodriguez