Growing up in Honduras taught me to spot misinformation

This story is part of How we know what we know: An investigative series.

Honduran journalists and news sources have always been filled with fake news, sensationalism, and unprofessional behavior. Although these negative connotations may be clear for someone aware of global news, when I was younger I was confused by all of the mixed messages that surrounded Honduran news and media. 

A prominent tradition in a Honduran household is watching the 7 a.m. news as we eat breakfast before work and school. I remember many instances where the adults in my house including my parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles would make fun of the news anchors. I remember watching the lively TV anchors as they appeared cartoonish-looking and animated. They aggressively mocked politicians and shouted repeatedly about how the government was stealing the poor people’s money.

I thought to myself that there was no possible way that a government could be stealing money, and I wondered why these news anchors would make up such lies. I only came to change my mind after seeing the reactions of everyone watching the news and agreeing with the journalists. 

I came to realize that if journalists are not being paid to remain quiet about the government’s indiscretions, they are threatened and even murdered for telling the truth about aggravating political situations. By 2021, over 80 Honduran journalists have been murdered, with 97% of these instances remaining unpunished.  The more I learned about the sad reality truth had to face in the country, the more I tried to disassociate myself from anything related to the news. Knowledge in Honduras I learned, is vulnerability. 

My family and I kept informed about news in the household, but if we went anywhere public it was not something that could be discussed. If you expressed political opinions and the wrong person misheard you, you could be in a lot of danger. I remained with a similar attitude when I moved to the United States. I somehow intuitively knew information may be more reliable, but I was always skeptical. 

Even when I started living here, my grandma would send me “news” articles on Facebook that had fake information, but she somehow believed it. My skepticism began to grow more and more and as I took my first couple of journalism classes at FIU I learned to more critically filter out the news that I was reading, if any. 

I have become extremely evaluative of the information I trust nowadays. The only sources that consume information from are the ones I have heard more than a couple of my professors assure me are reputable. Ultimately, I have become pretty desensitized to seeing negative news reports, leading me to assume that whenever I read anything from the media it will automatically be bad. I remain as skeptical as I can with reputable as well as new sources. If someone tells me any information they hear on the news I must always triple-check to believe it, especially with the fast dissemination of news in our society. 

Isabella is a Digital Journalism student with a focus on Women and Gender Studies. She is passionate about gender issues and wants to work in the media industry to create a more inclusive world for the LGBTQ+ community. She is also passionate about the arts, and humanities.