Our View: President problem and the fake news
August 17, 2018
Hundreds of newspapers on Thursday published editorials lambasting President Donald Trump for calling the press the enemy of the people.
It was a call by the Boston Globe that set the myriad editorial boards in motion. Together they used their opinion pages to oppose the disparaging remarks Trump makes about the media, and strike back against claims that the press is the enemy.
This isn't one of those editorials.
This editorial is about fake news and its role in our democracy. It's also about you, the reader, and the responsibility you have as an educated American voter.
Trump regularly harps on the subject of "fake news," though he could as well say "biased news" or even "news I don't like."
Incorrect and false reporting is a problem that's existed for centuries, as is biased news. Jean-Paul Marat, a publisher and elected member of revolutionary France's National Convention, called for violence against his political enemies.
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The words have changed, but the level of vitriol is the same.
Examine Fox News, MSNBC, Breitbart and the Huffington Post for proof. You're reading different news when they report on the same stories. The heroes of Fox News are the villains of MSNBC. Look no further than 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as an example. The self-described Democratic Socialist ousted an entrenched U.S. House Democrat in a New York primary. Depending on where you get your news, she's either a paragon or a heretic.
And in 2018, political opponents aren't colleagues with whom you compromise. They're enemies you destroy.
Ask Marat how that turned out.
There's no one reason for the "fake news" epidemic. There's a multitude of causes that form a complex organism that changes shape along with America.
We can point to the reduced number of working journalists in this country as one culprit. It's no secret the industry has struggled over the past two decades. Journalists still produce strong work, but the changes are obvious — smaller papers, fewer reporters and the gradual disappearance of institutional knowledge.
The amount of news hasn't dropped. Instead it's being covered in different ways. Many organizations focus on clicks instead of content. Some news coverage now barely gets your shoes wet when years ago you could have drowned in it.
Now we're drowning in something else entirely.
The woes experienced by media organizations don't equal a dearth of news across our country. Quality news exists. You just have to look farther than your Facebook feed or cable news show.
And that means you have a responsibility.
We can't be passive players in the game of democracy. We'd be fools to accept every piece of news we encounter as gospel.
That's why we must vet the information we receive. Get it, chew it over, determine its political slant, if any exists, and weigh that when digesting it. Ask yourself: Does it merit your attention and belief?
Some of the news will be biased. Maybe a lot of it. That doesn't mean it's wrong or fake. It might merely conflict with your own political bias.
If that's the case, it's a bubble worth popping.
Many of us have trapped ourselves in news organizations and social media groups that act as echo chambers. If we are to bridge the divide that burdens this country, we must break open these chambers and be receptive to different ideas.
Working with political opponents isn't capitulation. It's compromise. Changing your mind after getting new facts isn't a betrayal of your tribe. It's the act of an intelligent, educated voter who wants the best for his or her country.
Anything telling you otherwise is likely fake news.
Our View is the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.