Facts and fakes
As a journalist, I’m supposed to be offended by President Donald Trump’s running gun battle with the press and concerned over the recent proliferation of “fake news” and “alternative facts.”
I’ll admit to being troubled over the latter, but I’m hardly surprised. I have always believed that it is impossible for journalists— myself included— to be truly unbiased,
but felt that we were motivated as professionals to seek truth and under- standing for our readers regardless of that bias. Unfortunately, many of the “citizen journalists” and online news organizations scattered across the internet exist solely to provide a biased view in a format specifically disguised to appear unbiased, so I can certainly understand why folks are getting frisky over fakes and facts.
Technology has made it incredibly easy for just about anybody to produce their version of the news and distribute it to a worldwide audience, and trusting any- thing you see on a screen in this day and age is a sketchy proposition at best.
(Yes, that was a bit of shameless self-promotion for newspa- pers, but there’s no way I was going to pass on the opportunity— and I meant everything I said about anony- mous news sources and some of the garbage we’re being fed by the 24/7 cable news cycle!)
That’s exactly why I’m not as incensed as I probably should be over The Donald’s war on the “mainstream media.” Yeah, I know some of you think that I’m “mainstream media,” but that term gets thrown around so much these days— by both sides— that I’m not even sure what it means anymore and decided that I really don’t care.
Heck, when I first started in this business, I despised the “mainstream media” too, and thought I was becoming a spy in their midst when I went to work at a newspaper. I was going to expose government dysfunction and find the truth behind the story, but I was going to focus on meaningful dysfunction and the truth would be based on fact!
It didn’t take me long to find out that perspective— yes, bias— dictates what is “meaningful,” and even influ- ences what we perceive as “truth” or “fact,” and I’m struck by the fact that I really wasn’t aware of that when I was simply a reader. Unfortunately, I don’t think I’ve done a very good job of helping my readers gain that under- standing either, so I’m actually pretty excited about the amount of attention that is being paid to the whole fake news debate.
For one thing, I can hardly be bothered by Trump’s shots at the press. As a proud member of the Fourth Estate, I feel it is my Constitutional duty to shine a light on government so the public can trust that their best interests are being served. I figure we have to expect that government will shine a light on us every now and then too. At the end of the day, it will be the public that holds all of us accountable and that’s okay with me.
There are those who are concerned over the president’s continued use of Twitter to bypass media and present his message directly to the public, but plenty of local officials have used social media in the same way, so it is hardly a new phenomena.
As such, citizens will actually have to work a little harder to find the truth and ascertain the facts, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing. They say that you only get out of something what you put into it, and I’m sure that goes for self-government too.