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Posted on Tuesday, January 30, 2018 at 4:19 pm

‘Fake news’ rallying cry damages real reporting



In 2017, in an attempt to bully and demonize members of the press and the institution in general, President Donald Trump began referring to many news reports that painted him in a bad light as “fake news.”

According to www.factcheck.org, Trump accused news organizations of publishing fake news 320 times last year. That is almost one accusation per day.

While there certainly was fake news in the most recent election cycle, it was not the kind Trump is complaining about. It was apparently planted by the Russians, and probably helped to get him elected.

Buzzfeed reports that the top 20 fake news stories about the 2016 U.S. presidential election received more engagement on Facebook than the top 20 news stories on the election from 19 major media outlets.

Unfortunately, Trump’s bloviating about fake news has given permission to others to do likewise – those whose desire it is to dismiss an organization’s credibility in order to further a particular political agenda.

The Tullahoma News has not been immune to the fake news rallying cry, particularly on social media and particularly when the news is uncomfortable or disturbing. Oftentimes, an article or editorial may not fit with a reader’s particular political persuasion, and dismissing it as fake news makes it more palatable.

Most recently, a candidate running for a political office in Coffee County has dismissed The News’ reporting on the financial operations of the Manchester-Coffee County Conference Center as fake news, even though numbers used in the articles originated from the conference center itself.

But his comments are certainly not the first, nor will they be the last, attempt to undermine the work of local reporters.

Local newspapers are in the business of informing readers about events that affect them – whether it is a property tax increase, school schedule, public records, how the government is spending their money or the location of youth football signups.

Reporters spend their days interviewing, researching and writing news articles and features that are of interest to the local community. Editors make assignments, proofread and double-check the facts to make them as clear as possible.

Nowhere in this scenario is there the time, nor the inclination, to write fiction and try to pass it off as news in an attempt to damage an individual or institution. At the very least, libel laws prevent that.

Reporters and editors are not faultless, and occasionally mistakes are made, which are quickly corrected. But simply not liking what is printed and dismissing it as fake news shows a true lack of understanding as to what that implies and works to undermine the efforts to root out real and authentic fake news problems.

There is no doubt that fake news has become an issue in today’s social media world, when readers are quick to comment or share a post without considering its source. To help stop the proliferation of fake news, The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions has offered a guideline for helping to spot fake news: consider the source, check the author, check the date, check your biases and ask the experts.

Those with questions about how The News gathers and disseminates information are welcome to call us at 931-455-4545 or send an email to tnedit@lcs.net.