The introduction of social technology to the field of journalism has drastically changed the way people gather and consume news media. Instead of sitting down and watching the nightly news or waking up to grab the morning paper, a majority of news-seekers simply use social media and smartphones to gather information.
Journalism is a practice that largely depends on the communications technology of the day and is often shaped by that very same technology.
Recently there has been a growing concern over fake news in today’s media, especially following the 2016 presidential election. As a multimedia journalism major, I can see the danger of having false reports circulating as if true. However, an even more dangerous trend is labeling trusted news sources as “fake news” just because you don’t like what’s being reported.
The rise of “fake news” is not only damaging to American society but also diminishes trust between citizens and news media. Headlines such as “WikiLeaks CONFIRMS Hillary Sold Weapons to ISIS” are usually a solid indicator of a false news report. Most Americans can spot an unreliable source when they see one.
After all, a majority of high school English courses I took went above and beyond to establish what is factual and what is not. But more and more often I see online CNN reports studded with criticising comments berating the the publication for being “fake news.”
Dubbing real news as false is a clear indication that you have some sort of bias towards what is being reported or the news publication in general. “Fake news” is news that is factually not true, has unreliable or a lack of sources, is potentially payed for and is usually attached to an unreliable news outlet. I have yet to see a CNN report that matches this criteria; despite this there are many comments, tweets and posts that mark the content as “fake.”
This backlash towards CNN and other publications is largely precipitated by comments made by President-elect Trump. A popular phrase thrown around by Trump during his campaign, among other things, was “crooked media.”
In response to CNN’s coverage of a potential conflict of interest the candidate might have, Trump tweeted: “Prior to the election it was well known that I have interests in properties all over the world. Only the crooked media makes this a big deal!”
The main function of a free press is to give citizens the information that is needed to make informed decisions. A potential conflict of interest is something Americans have the right to know about and does not indicate that CNN is treating Trump unfairly or plotting against him.
The whole concept of combating fake news has been perverted by the president-elect and is now turned into a form of online trolling. The trust between the American public and news media is delicate and separates us from other countries. Dismissing information simply because you disagree with it is a dangerous habit and stops the flow of information, thus endangering us all.