Dick Tracy: Two sides to every story, even ‘fake news’
When I was a kid, my best friend’s dad often said about “the latest news” (via newspapers and radio): “Don’t believe anything you read, and only half of what you see.”
I was skeptical: They wouldn’t put anything in the newspaper that wasn’t true, would they?
Having since had a career in print journalism, I still believe that. But no system is perfect, and mistakes happened even when all copy had to go through a horseshoe-shaped copy desk staffed by “old timer” copy editors.
When interning for a Reno newspaper while in college I was particularly smug about a story I’d written about some local issue, and it was handed back to me by the copy desk chief.
“You’ve written an editorial here,” he said, “not a news story. Go interview people with opposing viewpoints.” I did, and learned enough to throw it in the wastebasket.
With the downsizing of newspaper staffs there are few copy desks as in days of old. And “news” from the internet certainly doesn’t get nearly the scrutiny it deserves.
Take, for example, a recent story emailed to me from an old friend. It was allegedly written by Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Charles Krauthammer (on his death bed) concerning a 30,000-person volunteer organization called “Organizing For Action,” dedicated to disrupting anything the Trump administration does — in favor of left-wing politics.
The OFA’s issues, according to the column, are, “Gun control, socialist health care, abortion, sexual equality, climate change and of course, immigration reform.”
And who’s supposed to be running this shadow organization? None other than Barack Obama!
That puzzled me. Isn’t our former president busy writing his memoirs with the guidance of Valerie Jarrett to earn a multimillion-dollar advance fee?
My friend is a brilliant musician, and holds a PhD in education. During his career he served as superintendent of education for a small Nevada community. No dummy.
But I’m aware of his extreme right-wing leanings and got online seeking more information on, “Organizing for Action.”
Through several fact-checking sources I learned that the staunchly conservative Krauthammer — although he had plenty of criticism for Obama during his presidency — never wrote the piece. And, that it’s completely false.
In fact, Krauthammer was very mistrusting of President Trump. In one column he said the president shows “a striking absence of elementary decency and of natural empathy.”
He also wrote, in the Washington Post: “I used to think Trump was an 11 year old, an underdeveloped schoolboy and bully. I was off by about 10 years. His needs are more primitive, an infinite hunger for appropriate praise … Trump lives for adoration.”
In response, the president mocked Krauthammer for physical disabilities incurred by a diving accident: “I get called by a guy that can’t buy a pair of pants, I get called names?”
I shared these findings with my friend. They fell on deaf ears.
Those fact-checkers are run by liberals, he contends.
I wish he — and others who troll the internet in search of stories that shore up their beliefs — had the skepticism of my best friend’s father.
“Fake News” can be found everywhere on the internet. If you find something too bizarre to be true, don’t pass it on.
Dick Tracy, who lives in Grass Valley, is a member of The Union Editorial Board. His views are his own and do not represent the views of The Union or its editorial board members. Contact him at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.
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