Fake news isn’t a new thing. In fact, it’s been a deeply rooted infection in journalism for hundreds of years. At least on this continent. There’s a pretty great article titled “Fake News: An Origin Story” that chronicles the origins of Fake News on North America. In my opinion, it’s an interesting read.
“In covering a lurid murder in 1836, one major newspaper implicated the man who’d been accused of the crime, while a competing newspaper described the accused as the victim of an intricate conspiracy,” the article’s writers state.
The article then explains that the competing newspapers covered the crime in two different interpretations based on what they thought their readers would prefer to hear. “Different newspapers had different audiences, so journalists catered to the tastes and sympathies of their particular readerships,” the article said.
Yellow journalism is defined as “journalism that is based upon sensationalism and crude exaggeration” and includes little or no legitimate research and meant to attract readers and increase circulation.
In the digital world, you might have heard the term “click bait.” Click bait goes hand-in-hand with yellow journalism.
– “Gabrielle Union has scathing words for ex-‘AGT’ co-star”
– “Stimulus bill won’t be enough to trigger a recovery”
– “Rivera’s death certificate said she died within minutes”
– “Documents reveal emails between Maxwell, Epstein”
– “Obama blasts GOP in stirring John Lewis eulogy”
– “GOP senators propose 11th-hour stimulus plan”
Those headlines above are the product of going to Yahoo.com. All of them are meant to get certain people to click them. Those that align with the GOP will want to read about how the senators came up with that plan. Democrats will want to know how former President Obama blasted the GOP during a funeral. Fans of America’s Got Talent might want to know what those scathing words were. Those with more morbid tastes might want to know how many minutes it took that famous actress to drown.
If you want to call me a hypocrite because my headline for this article mirrors a certain Black Lives Matter motif then sure, I’ll admit it. I’m a hypocrite.
The point I’m trying to get across is that Fake News isn’t new. However, not everyone in “the media” is a yellow journalist.
On my personal Facebook profile, I wrote a very long rant about how I felt attacked/insulted by my Facebook friends constantly referring to “the media” as an evil or corrupt entity. To summarize that post, I’d gotten tired and fed up with people sharing one of those click bait articles and blasting “the media.”
As a member of “the media” for five years, I’ve struggled with keeping my emotions and opinions (my own bias) from creeping into my articles. Even though I’ve done my best I can’t absolutely say that it’s never happened since I began writing for the newspaper in 2015. You’re a human, I’m a human. Humans make mistakes.
While most of my Facebook friends were supportive of me, I had one that chalked up my feelings and opinions as an “occupational hazard.” To be quite honest with you all, the insensitive comment cut me deep. I was hurt because it came from a family member, someone that I respected.
As a knee-jerk reaction, I deleted the post. In fact, I was so angry that I began to dismantle my entire page by deleting details, photos, and more than a month worth of posts on my timeline.
My finger hovered above the account deletion button when I got a message from a friend and fellow journalist asking me about why I deleted the post. When I explained to her why, she said “Well at least you got to vent about your frustrations and made some other members of the media feel heard as well.”
That was something I’d failed to contemplate. I’m not alone in my frustrations. You know, when the COVID-19 lockdown began and only essential workers could be out we all heard about the bravery of truck drivers, those in retail and grocery, and those in the medical field. People that went to work every day even though they might get infected.
I don’t know about you, but I never heard about the bravery of journalists. I never heard about how brave radio hosts were to invite people into their stations and talk to audiences. I never heard about the bravery of a newspaper sales rep traveling to small businesses to see if they wanted to advertise in the paper.
I’ve got a theory why you weren’t hit with reports about your local news anchor or the investigative journalist employed by your local paper. It’s because the big, bad “media” didn’t report it.
Since the beginning of this pandemic, your local media has worked every day, we’ve been talking to the public, attending public meetings, interacting with those that may or may not have coronavirus.
Our efforts haven’t been for glory. I could count on one hand how many times I’ve been thanked for what I do.
Our efforts haven’t been for monetary gain. I’m not knocking my employer, but we’re writers. I’m pretty sure those in retail make more money than writers.
Our efforts haven’t been for personal pleasure. I mean, unless you think attending a three-hour long Board of Zoning Appeals meeting and then spending an additional five hours to convert that into multiple articles is fun.
Plainly put, we do what we do to inform you about what’s going on in our coverage areas. You know, the places you live in.
I love my job. I’m proud to be a member of “the media” that covers the county I live in. And I get hurt when people lump local media in with the mainstream media. I get angry when someone on Facebook/Twitter/Social Media in general calls us “fake news” or states that my newspaper only covers “granny’s playing bingo.” It’s that type of ignorance the local media is trying to combat.
I’m not looking for apologies or signs of gratitude the next time I walk into a public meeting. Far from it. I hate being recognized, I’d rather slink into the shadows. What I would ask is that before you bash “the media,” maybe make a distinction of which media outlet is fake news and give a reason why you believe that way.
“Fake News: An Origin Story” was written by Shankar Vedantam, Rhaina Cohen, and Tara Boyle and can be viewed at http://www.npr.org.
Categories: Mastering the Craft