What is “fake news” and has it crept into mainstream media reporting?

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-Leticia Remauro

“Fake News” has been around since the advent of the internet. The short definition is a sensational headline presented by professional looking websites designed to get people to click so ads can be delivered – also known as “click bait”. The American public didn’t pay much attention to “fake news” until the 2016 Presidential Elections when then candidate Donald Trump accused mainstream media of creating “fake news” to increase ratings.

Almost immediately upon its utterance, “fake news” became an American household phrase – often used by conservative minded individuals who feel that the news media is slanted towards liberal point of view.

So is mainstream media guilty of slanting stories to attract likeminded individuals? And – if it is true, how does it impact the American way of life?

Let’s examine a recent New York Times story about the special election for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District. Democrat Connor Lamb faced off against Republican Rick Saccone and Libertarian Drew Miller. The Democrat has 49.8% of the vote – the Republican has 49.6% of the vote and the Libertarian has 0.6% of the vote.

Most experienced newspapers would report this election as a straight “too close to call,” because, even with 100% of districts reporting, there are still absentee ballots and military ballots left to count in addition to a likely recanvas of machines to ensure that there were no mistakes when the original count was taken. But the New York Times – the “Gray Haired Lady” of newspapers’ first paragraph in their story about the election stated this, “The Democrat and Republican in a special House election in the heart of Pennsylvania’s Trump country were divided by a few hundred votes in a race that was too close to call early Wednesday — an ominous sign for Republicans in a district that Donald J. Trump won by nearly 20 percentage points.”

Since the story doesn’t carry quotes from any Republicans stating that they are nervous or feel that the tight race is an “ominous sign”, the reader has no choice but to believe that the statement is the opinion of one of the three reporters writing the story.

Can this be considered “fake news”? Would the story attract the same attention if it reported – “18th Congressional Special Election Too Close To Call?” Or “Libertarian Candidate Plays Spoiler in Red District Special Election”? Both are facts but neither provide the reporters with the opportunity to berate the President of the United States as weak.

CNN reporters are unabashedly stating that the Democrat will win this seat and that fact should be a wakeup call for President Trump and the Republican Party.

The Washington Post reported the story this way: “A special election for a U.S. House seat was too close to call late Tuesday as Democrat Conor Lamb and Republican Rick Saccone were separated by several hundred votes in a race that had become a test of President Trump’s political clout.

With thousands of absentee and provisional ballots outstanding, Lamb earned 49.8 percent of votes cast and Saccone earned 49.6 percent, with 100 percent of precincts reporting, according to the Associated Press, which said the race was too close to project a winner.

A recount is possible if the candidates are separated by 0.5 percentage points or less.

Shortly before midnight, Saccone told his supporters that “it’s not over yet.”

Many of the facts are the same however the story is devoid of slant which was once a source of pride for media outlets.

So why should Americans be upset that mainstream media is reporting slanted stories? The answer can be summed up in one word – RUSSIA. Whether or not you believe that Russia had a favorite candidate in the 2016 elections our government has condemned Russian operatives for using social media and other media outlets as a vehicle to deliver election propaganda. If you are someone who believes that the Russian election propaganda impacted the election, then you must also admit that slanted news being delivered by mainstream media is also impacting the way Americans vote.

As millennials born into the internet era are coming of age to vote, we must, as a responsible industry, be diligent to unbiasedly report the facts. As consumers, we must demand no less from our media outlets for if we do not, we will suffer the same fate as the Russians, Germans and so many other countries who control media outlets in order to bombard their people with propaganda.

“Group think” is a dangerous thing and the antithesis of a free nation. The last time this country’s freedom of thought was threatened was during the Victorian Era when women of means suffered self-imposed body mutilation in their quest to achieve the fashionable tiny waist. It took women more than a century to break free of that destructive type of thinking. We cannot stand by and watch as a new form of group think grips our nation stripping away individuality from an unsuspecting generation.

We must demand impartiality from our American news media and reward those who provide it.

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