What is fake news? Donald Trump did not create this phrase but certainly brought it to the top of our vocabulary list as an adjective for describing news media outlets: particularly those he does not agree with. For all the talk of fake news since he decided to run for President, I thought it would be good to take a centrist viewpoint of the phrase and dissect it for what it really means.
If we are going to be impartial we will tackle this subject the way we do all others; by clearly defining what is being discussed. I love doing this because it takes away all emotion and brings everyone to an equal and agreed starting point. It also helps defuse any hostilities and preconceived notions. Basically, leave your baggage at the door and come inside with an open mind.
Cambridge Dictionary defines the word fake as something that is intended to look like and be mistaken for something else, a copy made in order to deceive. An example of fake would be “She discovered that the documents were fakes.”
The news is defined as newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent or important events: a broadcast or published report of news: information not previously known to someone.
I’m going to add one more definition here because it ties into the heart of this post. The word is tabloid. When used as a noun tabloid is defined as a newspaper having pages half the size of those of a standard newspaper, typically popular in style and dominated by headlines, photographs, and sensational stories. The North American interpretation of tabloid is sensational in a lurid or vulgar way. An example of tabloid being used in a sentence is “they argued about who made what allegation on what tabloid TV show.”
Growing up tabloid news was considered that of gossip. Possibly partial truth but, mostly designed to get your attention. Tabloid magazines like the National Enquirer with pictures of celebrities looking their worst with salacious titles and wild tales continue to be a magnet to people waiting at the grocery checkout aisle. It’s a business model that has proven successful because it taps into our primal needs of gossip and want to know what’s going on. Most people have an understanding that what they are reading is designed for entertainment. I say most people because there is a segment of the population that will believe anything they are told regardless of the facts that prove the story to be fiction.
You can’t mention the phrase fake news and Donald Trump in the same sentence without including his favorite station to hate, CNN. He has several other outlets like NBC, the Washington Post and the New York Times that he bestows that label upon when he doesn’t like their coverage of him. Cable News Network or CNN is first in his heart on the list of media companies that he has deemed the enemy of the people. Those are strong charges. It’s akin to the label of treason.
Rather than me agreeing or disagreeing with the President, I will give my interpretation of his label of fake news and his war with the media. Since Russian collusion has dominated the coverage of his candidacy and time in office I will use a Russian word to surmise the overwhelmingly negative coverage he has received.
The word is Pravda. In Russian in literally means truth. It also served as the title of a Russian daily newspaper that was founded in 1912 and from 1918 to 1991 was the official newspaper of the Soviet Union Communist Party.
According to Britannica.com “During the Soviet era, Pravda was distributed nationwide, offering its readers well-written articles and analyses on science, economics, cultural topics, and literature. There were letters from readers and officially sponsored and approved materials to indoctrinate and inform its readers on Communist theory and programs. Its treatment of foreign affairs generally was limited to domestic matters within foreign countries. International relations was left to the official Soviet government newspaper Izvestiya. Pravda’s pages featured pleasing makeup, occasional photography, and attractive typography. It carried no Western-style scandal or sensational news; rather, it sought to encourage unity of thought on the part of its readers by stressing and interpreting the party line. Many of its editorials were reprinted in other Soviet and Soviet-bloc papers.”
Do the outlets that Donald Trump labels fake news encourage the unity of thought on the part of its readers by stressing and interpreting the party line? Yes, they do. Is the overwhelming coverage of the President on those media outlets negative and biased in favor of the Democratic Party? Yes, it is. Are the hosts and guests, which have opinions that are so obviously biased against the President, unable to see what role they have played in perpetuating the stereotype of fake news? Yes, they are.
The bias goes both ways. Conservative-leaning outlets like Fox News, Breitbart News Network and Newsmax.com all do the same thing. You will very rarely see a negative news story of the President on conservative-leaning news stations. This includes talk radio shows as well. What’s good for Democrats are good for Republicans.
While CNN and Fox News claim to be real news along with the other organizations mentioned all you have to do is go to their station and see what kind of coverage the President is getting. If I can turn on CNN and have a better than 90% chance of seeing them bash the President and the opposite is true for Fox News you are seeing Pravda in full force. A better way to describe what’s occurring is media bias.
Some might say that the majority of people in Hollywood and journalists are liberal and vote Democratic. This may be true. I will take a more practical approach and remind you that all of these media outlets are in the business of making money thru advertising. The way they do that is by competing against one another for market share. The bigger percentage of viewers they have the more they can sell airtime to advertisers. If that means slanting their coverage of the politicians to appeal to a conservative or liberal demographic in a manner that is so patently obvious all in the name of ratings and making money so be it.
Now that we covered that let me tell you what the real fake news is and how to spot it in anything you read and see. First, it’s to pay attention to the coverage as we’ve discussed. If it leans too far left or right it’s political Pravda. The second is the omission. If you see a story that is intentionally left uncovered because it doesn’t fit into the narrative the outlet is pushing and can paint them or their party in a negative light you are viewing indoctrination. The bias of omission is a real thing. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve seen a major story nowhere to be found on several of the major news networks nightly broadcasts or websites. The third way to see the bias is facts unreported and underreported. If you see a news report that intentionally leaves critical pieces of information out because they don’t want to draw attention to it or spends little to no time covering a story because it doesn’t fit their overall narrative that is called journalistic bias. It happens every day on stations that are supposed to be opinion free and only cover the news. You just have to pay close attention to see it in action.
Whether it’s stations that hate the President or cover him with rose-colored cameras, bias is everywhere. It’s always been there but was never called out for what it is. The fourth estate and its journalists were never called biased and always reported the truth. That all changed in 2016. With Donald Trump becoming President the gloves have come off. Opinions and unnamed sources are what dominate the airwaves and newspapers. Fair and balanced reporting is now only a copy written slogan along with being the most trusted name in news. Straight-laced reporters of the past who never let their opinions show must be rolling over in their graves when they see the new generation of reporters like Jim Acosta becoming the story by arguing with and insulting the President. It goes against everything you are taught in journalism class. Perhaps those reporters and hosts should take a refresher course at their alma mater. Maybe then we can get back to real news.