The latest scapegoat in the wild world of news and American politics is “the media.” The media is to blame for everything. The media is dishonest. The media should not be biased. The media is too biased. The media is fake news. It’s an inaccurate way to talk about such a massive collection of industries and companies.
Is the media the local paper? Is the media Fox News? Or is the media CNN? Is the media AlterNet? Is the media Washington Post? Is the media the publication or the writers? The staff journalists or the freelancers? The investors or the advertisers? Is the media also sitcoms? Is the media Hollywood? Yes, the media is all of those things. Except — that’s not what most politicians and pundits mean when they say “the media.”
We can make assumptions on what is meant by the term. Sure, we can understand more by seeing it in context, but that’s not enough to combat the assault on actual news. Nothing but more precise language will let us talk about the topic of bias in the media. When we are not precise about our definitions, we leave the door open for people to take a generalization and twist it to suit their own logic.
“Fake news” is a buzzword being used by people across the political spectrum — but, most particularly, by President Donald Trump. A lack of specificity is fueling misconceptions about what fake news is and isn’t. Is it the Onion? Is it fake news when people believe it is true? Is it news that is just made up, like a fiction book, imaginary. Is fake news propaganda? Is fake news an inaccurate story? Is fake news an unsubstantiated report? Is fake news an article that reports on a report being unsubstantiated? Well, it could be all of these things, but because we don’t specify, anyone can decide for themselves what fake news is and why it’s bad — without actually knowing why it is fake or bad.
When Trump made his infamous anti-Mexican declarations, his reality show, Celebrity Apprentice, was officially canceled as NBC tried to distance themselves from the controversy. Yet the network did nothing to prevent him from hosting an episode of Saturday Night Live five months after their public condemnation of his politics. Arguably, many layers of bias were at play here: Trump’s racism, NBC’s bias against loud racists, NBC’s bias for money. The reality is, we can never escape bias, but that doesn’t mean every biased piece of information is worthless. Calling anything biased “fake news” is a misnomer.
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