Fake news?

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Last week, my boss covered a story about the Eastern Carroll County Ambulance District. He reported the information given to him and continually updated the story as it evolved. He did exactly what a good reporter is supposed to do, and somebody still accused him of reporting fake news.

That wasnít the first time Iíve heard somebody call valid reporting ďfake news,Ē and Iím sure it wonít be the last. That term seems to have invaded our collective American conscience over the past couple of years. It has become so prevalent, in fact, that I donít define ďfake newsĒ the same way I once did.

Fake news used to denote satirical websites like The Onion. The stories you read on The Onion are ridiculous and offensive and obviously not real. I remember seeing people share these stories as if they were true and laughing. ďHow could they think thatís an actual news story?Ē Iíd say. ďItís clearly fake news.Ē

Today, we have a president who uses that term to describe actual, real news stories. Most of the stories President Trump denounces as fake news arenít very flattering for him, but Iím sure thatís just a coincidence. He wouldnít call a story fake just because it casts him in a negative light, right? Thatís the kind of reaction youíd expect out of a kindergartner, not the leader of the free world.

Iím not just picking on Trump. Heís made it popular to deride journalists by calling their work ďfake news,Ē but he canít make others follow in his footsteps. They choose to do that. I can hardly blame them. If a news story challenges the way you see the world, itís pretty easy to scream ďFake news!Ē and ignore it. Iíd say itís much easier to do that than to read the story, consider how it fits into your view and adjust what you believe accordingly.

Of course, my view on this is based on my professional experience. Iím a journalist, and I work with a bunch of journalists who care deeply about reporting whatís happening in our county the right way. I donít consider us biased. We report the facts, and thatís all. That doesnít mean weíre perfect. We make mistakes like every other human in the world, and we correct ourselves when that happens.

Iím not saying biased news outlets donít exist, because they do. Still, most major newspapers and networks do a good job reporting whatís happening in our country right now. You may not like what the Washington Post has to report, but you canít say itís false when multiple sources back up the story.

ďFake newsĒ is not a term that describes particular news stories you donít like. Journalists are supposed to keep society, especially elected public officials, honest. It scares me when I see people accuse good journalists of reporting fake news.

After all, perception is reality. I donít know about you, but I want to live in a country where the perceived reality is the same one weíre living in.

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Samantha Jones is associate editor for Carroll County Newspapers. Her email address is Citizen.Editor.Eureka@gmail.com