As journalists, we expect a fair amount of criticism – journalists are, after all, only above politicians and Government ministers in terms of ‘least trusted professions’.
Of course, this is part of the job. And sometimes we *whisper it* consider it a badge of honour if we are disliked by those we are scrutinising – specifically the aforementioned politicians and Government ministers.
But there is one criticism that is worse than others, and is currently in fashion: that of peddling ‘fake news’. Fake ‘news’ is undoubtedly a blight. That is, stories that have no grounding in reality, such as Denzel Washington declaring his support for Donald Trump in the presidential election, or when Trump apparently said himself that his own Republican voters were ‘the dumbest group of voters in the country.
Neither of these things happened. Yet they were published by small websites and shared by people on social media – who, almost invariably, support the agenda pushed by these stories.
Most of the time, these websites that are simply creating ‘news’ know they are doing so, but with little accountability and just an agenda to push, there is nothing really stopping them.
But since it has become an issue, it has become an accusation to throw at journalists whenever someone doesn’t like a story.
Now, I’m not saying this so people have sympathy for us. I’m saying this because it is potentially dangerous. When people in power start throwing these accusations at anything they don’t like, it casts doubt in people’s mind around the veracity of a story - making it harder to hold them to account. This is a tactic that is often employed by a certain US president mentioned above.
It is, of course, also important for journalists to do their part and report stories as fairly and as close to the ‘truth’ as they can.
But readers have to play their part and be discerning as to whether to believe a story or not – and understand the agenda of those throwing ‘fake news’ accusations around.