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How The Media Should Fix “Fake News” [VIDEO]

How The Media Should Fix “Fake News” [VIDEO]

How The Media Should Fix “Fake News” [VIDEO]

Everyone’s heard President Trump say “fake news.” He said it repeatedly through the 2016 election cycle. He’s got his supporters saying it. He said it just again a couple of days ago directly to a CNN reporter.

And every time he says it, media figures freak out.

This is like the kid who keeps teasing a younger sibling, despite Mom telling him or her to knock it off, because the kid knows they will get a reaction. Trump knows that it makes the legacy media angry every single time he utters the words “fake news.” THAT’S WHY HE DOES IT. He doesn’t CARE about their feelings. He knows he gets a reaction.

And the problem is, in the post-Watergate era where every college kid who entered journalism school dreamed of being the next Woodward or Bernstein, the media keeps making sloppy mistakes and outright errors that get magnified in the Twitter era.

Sharyl Attkisson just published on her own website a list of “50 Media Mistakes in the Trump Era.” It starts in August 2016 and #50 lands on June 1st of this year. It is worth a read, mostly because these are unforced errors that were committed by the media’s insatiable urge to own Trump or get the next big scoop.

And that is the problem. Journalism is a tough business, and each journalist is hoping for the big scoop to make a name for themselves. Sometimes, the drive for a scoop goes straight from dogged perseverance to getting classified leaks to “sleeping with your source” unethical.

When I started college in the late 90’s and began working on my journalism degree, we were still in that weird period of newspapers being the gold standard, social media didn’t yet exist on a widespread platform, cable news channels had only recently begun to emerge as a force, and yet it was post-Clinton scandal where, famously, the Drudge Report broke the news that Newsweek would not about the president having an affair. So, it was an age where the internet was an up-and-coming force, and yet we college students were still being told to buy copies of the AP Stylebook in the college bookstore.

My first journalism professor had covered Vietnam protests. 95 percent of us in that class were born post-Watergate. Our first assignment? Obituaries. The idea was that as a brand-new hire at a newspaper, you’d be handling the vital statistics. So our first graded assignment was on writing obituaries. We learned about writing a tight headline that would fit exactly across X number of columns, taking quizzes straight out of the AP Stylebook, all while being told things along the lines of “verify all your sources,” “keep all your notes,” “unbiased language,” and “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.”

How times have changed. Now anyone with a smartphone and a Twitter account can be viral in an instant if they happen to catch a breaking event. Journalists no longer worry about writing three-line paragraphs to make sure they don’t look too chunky in a column only an inch and a half wide. Now they write the lede for their own article in 280 characters in a Tweet.

And the state of journalism, which has always depended on covering the next breaking story or getting the next scoop from a source, is now in crisis after first silently, then openly, rooting for one political party for decades.

So, how to fix it? Well, would a return to the fundamentals of writing and sourcing be too much to ask? Would it be too much to tell journalists to lay off Twitter, especially if they are expressing a political opinion? Could the journalists of today even write an obituary of someone they passionately disagree with, as dispassionately as possible? What happened to the ideal of objectivity?

But if you asked a “real” journalist about all of that, they’d laugh. What would a blogger know about “real” journalism?

My response? The “real” journalists are the ones that are making the mistakes. You don’t get a margin of error in this age of instant communication. And the odds are good that you’ll never be a Woodward or a Bernstein, no matter how hard you try. Is the job still worth it if no one ever knows your name?

The “fake news” label could be removed if the media would try to remove their own ego from their jobs. But I’m afraid we’ve gone past the point of no return for that.

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