Something that has bothered me for quite some time now is the term “fake news.” This is not a term coined by President Trump, as some might think. It goes all the way back to the late 19th century. The writer and philosopher George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.” We are now repeating the events that occurred over 100 years ago.
In the late 1890’s those in the newspaper business were interested in only one thing, selling newspapers. In particular, Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst were in a cutthroat competition to see who could snag the most readers. To do this they would resort to what was called “yellow journalism.” Today we would call this “fake news.”
Pulitzer and Hearst were out to grab the attention of their readers. To do this, they would often print articles sensationalizing even the most mundane news of the day. Their only goal was to line their already deep pockets and to further build their media empires. Neither man cared who they hurt in the process, or how many lies were spread. Does this sound familiar yet?
Just this morning I was looking for news on Kim Jong Un, the leader of North Korea, who by some accounts has died. Then again he might just be vacationing in a resort town in North Korea, as his train has supposedly been spotted there. Better yet, he might be there for medical treatment. All of these “theories” were gleaned from just one particular article. No concrete evidence was ever presented. However, that doesn’t seem to matter anymore. The only thing that matters is that “we reported it first!” This is precisely the problem.
In the scramble for a news agency to be first to report something, they think it is okay to rely on “hearsay.” This is no more reliable than the old game known as “Telephone,” which many of us played as schoolchildren. In this game one person starts by whispering a message in one person’s ear, that person then tries to whisper the exact same message to the next person, and so on. By the time the message gets to the last person it rarely reflects the original one. So it is with today’s news coverage.
Often things are taken out of context, which is meant to make someone look foolish. Facts are not checked, all because it is a race to see who can get the “word” out first. Liewise, things are reported that are simply not true. These “facts” are then spread all over social media and people take it as “gospel.” Moreover, depending on what outlet you are listening to, you are getting their “spin” on the news.
One particular network may promote a more conservative agenda, while another has a more liberal slant. It is shameful that we live in a world where facts are subjective depending upon your political point of view.
The great American author and humorist Mark Twain once said, “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” Apparently, journalists today are taking Twain’s advice and running with it. This leads us with very few, if any, reliable sources to trust. That is why it is important to be discerning and to seek out various sources, instead of just relying on one in partucular.
It is frustrating to me that during these times of uncertainty across the world, that we are often left with more questions than answers. In the words of John Lennon, “All I want is the truth, just give me some truth.”