The terms ‘fake news’ and ‘fake news media’ have themselves been very in the news as of late.
A gamut of major media outlets have understandably taken uber-umbrage at these terms and all that they imply. Recently 100 or more of them coordinated an effort to editorialize in the strongest terms, against what they see as a dangerous top-down trend toward censorship, suppression, and ultimately totalitarianism.
It’s a message that easily resonates. Haven’t we always been taught that a free press is the lynchpin of democracy? That the people have the right to know?
The very term ‘fake news’ seems a bald and blatant untruth. Does anyone really expect us to believe that, for instance, when it is reported that the president is in London or Helsinki; he is actually not?
As I thought this issue through however, it occurred to me that a large part of the problem – as it so often is – is a miscommunication, a definition of terms.
The term ‘news’, as I’ve always understood it, represents data, raw facts, unembellished with opinion or intent to influence the audience’s reaction to them.
To deem such a worthwhile and ‘pareve’ endeavor as ‘fake’ or somehow antagonist to the people’s best interest would be ludicrous. What can possibly be wrong with laying out the facts of national and world events at people’s feet to allow them to craft the informed opinions necessary to be an effective part of the polis?
Therefore, I believe the claim to actually be that a large percentage of reporting that bills itself as ‘news’ in the classical sense referred to above, is actually not. Rather it is in fact editorial.
While it may construct itself upon a foundation of objective facts, the way these are then interpreted, emphasized or deemphasized shifts the report squarely into the realm of op-ed.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with expressing an opinion, and using all the tools at your disposal to bring others to your way of thinking.
However, calling opinion and agenda-driven reporting (regardless of the merit of the agenda) objective ‘news’ is simply untrue. Rather it would be a misnomer, or less polysyllabically put – fake.
This, I believe is the actual ‘fake news’ assertion, and is one fact with which few honest minds on any sector of the political spectrum could argue.