There is a lot of talk in the media these days about “fake news.”
Too much of it is available via the Internet. Too many people believe it.
But there has always been fake news. People love fake news. They eat it up.
From supermarket tabloids like the National Enquirer and Weekly World News to satirical websites like The Onion, people line up to read fake news.
But they also knew what they were reading was fiction. And they treated it as such.
That was a long time ago. You know, when there was a difference between tabloid reporting and real news reporting.
Fake news was fun. We laughed about.
We could tell the difference between something fake and something legit.
That’s no longer the case.
And it’s not because fake news writers have not gotten better at writing and reporting.
It’s because legitimate news writers/reporters/networks/media companies have gotten a whole lot worse at doing their job, which I always thought was to report — without bias — the news.
It’s embarrassing to be a part of the media anymore.
We are not trusted. We don’t have the resources to check and recheck and check one more time what we write and report on. Mistakes happen daily, which decreases the media’s credibility even more.
But grammar, spelling and factual errors aren’t the worst problem afflicting the mainstream media.
And, the availability of “fake” news is not the greatest problem.
The problem is the public no longer sees a difference between legitimate reporting and “fake” news.
It’s impossible to tell apart.
Media companies push an agenda. They won’t admit it. In fact, they’ll vociferously argue that it doesn’t happen.
They’re fooling themselves.
Most stories that come out of a newsroom are slanted to show the bias of a reporter or a news organization. Therefore, it is no longer real news. It should not be sold to the public as real news.
It is opinion and belongs on an op-ed page.
But it is sold as “real” news.
Hence, the growing problem of mistrust when it comes to news organizations.
That mistrust became a national embarrassment on Election Night 2016.
It became abundantly clear in November how clueless the national media had become and how little respect and trust the public had for that national media.
Those who report the news were shocked at the outcome that night. They were blown away by Donald Trump’s impossible victory. A Trump victory was not the story they had prepped for months to sell on election night.
The media got caught with its pants down … on a really huge stage.
So the media got to wondering how they could have been so wrong. How had them become so inept?
They said faulty polling, combined with too much “fake” news, combined with the stupidity of American voters who fell for Trump’s spiel was the reason they had been so wrong.
But that’s not the reason.
The real problem?
There is no longer a difference between “fake” and “legitimate” news.
And the voting public knows it.
They don’t trust us … with good reason.
The national media, thanks to its willingness to push an agenda, no longer differentiates itself from those who report “fake” news.
Everything it reports is slanted in one way or another and everyone knows it.
The “legitimate” media has lost its right to call itself legitimate.
It’s biased. End of story.
Rush Limbaugh is a mouthpiece for conservative causes. Millions tune in to his radio broadcast daily. He is blunt, bombastic and unapologetic about his conservative views. But he’s honest about what he is selling.
That’s my point.
Radio talk show hosts are honest and upfront about their biases.
The national media is not. It refuses to admit its bias.
Fox News is not fair and balanced. Far from it.
But neither are CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, NPR, the Associated Press, and 90 percent of every local newscast I’ve ever watched.
There used to be checks and balances in newsrooms. There was a true effort to correct slanted reporting, via a copy desk, via editors, via censors.
That is no longer the case.
There are no checks and balances.
It is no longer possible to differentiate between “fake” news and “real” news.
Because there is no difference.
If the national media is afraid of “fake” news, it is its own fault.
If the national media is unable to — or unwilling — to edit and censor and reign in its own biases, it has no right to complain about the proliferation of “fake” news.
Until the national media admits that its own bias is the reason it is no longer trusted, nothing is going to change.
Which means nothing will change.
You can’t regulate “fake” news away. You can’t ban it. You can’t just hope it will disappear.
The national media has to find a way to prove it is different from “fake” news sites.
And thus far, it has shown no interest in doing so.
It is content to push its agenda.
I had hopes the results of the 2016 presidential election would change that mindset.
The national media was embarrassed — or should have been embarrassed — by how it misread voters and the mood of the nation in this election.
The national media picked a winner three years ago, and road that horse until it crashed on Election Day.
How could it have been so wrong?
On the night of the election, there was some legitimate pondering going on.
Pollsters and commentators seriously debated their failures and the reason behind months and years of erroneous reporting.
But in the past few weeks, that soul-searching has stopped.
Now “fake” news is to blame. Conservative radio, which puts out that “fake” news is to blame.
Until the national media admits the role it has played in its own demise, in contributing to its own irrelevancy, nothing will change.
Viewers and readers will continue to search out sites that — if nothing else — are honest about their biases.
The national media is unwilling to do that.