For years, at the very least the last 2-3 here in America, I and many of my journalism colleagues, friends, compatriots and those I’ve never met, have been fighting what, at times, seems like a losing battle against what is the real “fake news” confronting this Nation.
My snap answer to those who allow themselves to be made collective suckers of has never once wavered.
There is a distinct difference between “legitimate press” and the “clickbait media”. It’s the difference between night and day, wet and dry, rational discussion and wild-eyed lunacy.
But there is much more to this story. A greater amount of work needs to be done to combat this scourge of lies and innuendo spread every second of every day.
While he will certainly be attacked by many as being completely biased in his approach, comedian/commentator/HBO host Bill Maher nailed it perfectly with a show-closing opinion about how even staid and respected journalism outlet and sites have allowed themselves to become often unwitting dupes perpetuating the nonsense that often passes for “news”.
As noted, this clip is courtesy “Real Time with Bill Maher” from HBO. Find their broadcast clips and more at https://www.hbo.com/real-time-with-bill-maher.
He’s right. Completely.
The 24/7 news cycle started by cable news and now spread to the Internet and viral platforms has done little, if nothing, to further the search for truth in our news. In almost every way, it has led to the proliferation of trolls, liars, frauds, so-called “news” websites that are little more than fronts for the selling of survival foods and books filled with innuendo and what doesn’t even approach a half-truth, biased commentators overlooking facts for a fat paycheck, conspiracy theorists who revel in being able to shuck and jive the people they publicly call “fans” and privately call “idiots”, sites that claim to be “sarcastic” when they are nothing more than a virtual bookshelf for clickbait, and homes for the bile ejecting hacks and partisans.
And then there are, of course, the foreign infiltrators that have hijacked not the news, but the common sense of the people who should be smart enough to smell bullshit when it’s right under their collective noses.
Websites such as “Factcheck.org” and “Snopes” are the most popular Internet versions of seeking out the truth. As a journalist, I often refer to them for reference. Both are regularly assailed for being biased, being funded by “dark forces”, or simply being part of clickbait. Of course, they are being targeted by the truly insidious lying homes of true fraud such as anything owned or involving Alex Jones and many others, of which I will not provide promotion for by noting them here and then having to wash my hands thoroughly for even typing their labels.
I am a regular user of these sites, always seeking out facts about even the smallest story to ensure I am doing nothing to aid in the cavalcade of excremental statements. However, there is one distinct caveat in how I utilize them.
They are not my only sources.
We live in an age where we have more facts at our fingertips than ever before. Double check, triple check, quadruple check source material we can uncover in milliseconds.
But a good number of, both public and those who claim to be real news sources, don’t bother because it takes too much time and effort. We’ve become a lazy, punch-drunk society that would rather be right than informed.
And with all that time to fill on broadcast air and Internet sites, far too often the usually respectable outlets fall for the nonsense because they have to fill up the space with something. Where once there used to be enterprise reporting, journalists hungry for a story and being drive to uncover the truth, there is now a Grand Canyon-esque vacuum that exists due to individual and corporate greed.
Which is why I stand from my chair and applaud the effort of veteran journalist and entrepreneur Stephen Brill, who is preparing to launch a web-based service called “Newsguard”, meant to ferret out the Internet frauds and seek to cut thru all the fraudulent noise.
The difference? Brill will employ people instead of algorithms. His people will dig into the guts of the source, either affirming their ability to tell the truth or exposing them as the charlatans they are.
The question remains how the rest of the Internet, especially the social media platforms, will accept this.
They need to. Quickly. Embrace this and welcome it.
Because for every legitimate source of real news and honest reporting, there is the slithering pile of steaming excrement that is Alex Jones.
The mass shooting in Parkland, Florida may indeed one day be marked as the bellwether for palpable change. The movement that has grown out of a few moments where teenagers were walking by the bodies of their classmates, having their limbs penetrated by whizzing bullets, and refusing to step down and merely accept it, I believe, will be realization of that greatest fear fake news purveyors have.
They will be exposed. Unmasked. Shown to be the frauds merely grasping for straws from the easily duped.
I despise giving people such as Jones and his ilk any publicity, but in this column I have already made on exception for the purpose of clarity. Here comes another.
The attempt by politically motivated sites and writers, in this case the hyperbolic assumptions, (remember what our parents told us about the word “assumption”, everyone), and conspiracy theories shoveled forward by sites such as “The Federalist”.
To fake and biased newsers, it’s all about twisting the facts, fitting an agenda instead of sticking completely to the facts.
I revel in exposing these sites, individuals and platforms every chance I get, using them as the examples of what has gone terribly wrong in the coverage of news at every speaking engagement, every media training session, every media strategy and public relations consultation and client I undertake.
We are turning a corner in America when it comes to real and honest news overage. I believe we will see a return to journalism and what it stands for as a younger generation understands the saps their parents have been turned into, and not wishing to be part of the nonsense.
The “Washington Post” has on it’s masthead “Democracy Dies in Darkness”. So does common sense, reason, and intelligence.
Keep fighting. Don’t surrender.
Rediscover the human touch by doing the extra few minutes of work and not allowing yourself to be part of the pustulous refuse that seeks to envelop reason.
There’s a little journalist in everyone.
It’s called the search for truth.