In 2010 a poll put journalists as the third most distrusted professionals in the UK, alongside car salesmen.(Laura Oliver on journalism.co.uk) If the trustworthiness of journalists was in doubt back then the recent bombardment of fake news has done little to enhance their credibility.
The influx of fake news throughout the media this year has been phenomenal. President Obama described this global problem as a threat to democracy. Publicly denouncing the spread of “so much active misinformation” on Facebook. There is no doubt that Facebook has been a major contributor to the distribution and spread of fake news. Although Zuckerberg claims that only 1% of news on Facebook is fake.
The US Presidential Election served as a breeding ground for fake news. With suggestions that it instigated the overall victory of Trump in the campaign. Pope Francis apparently endorsed Trump for President, the FBI were on the verge of impeaching Hilary Clinton who was also busy selling arms to ISIS and Obama banned The Pledge of Allegiance in schools. Just a few illustrations of our continued exposure to fake news in 2016.
The irony of the situation is that fake news in itself is creating even more news. It must be the top trending subject ever. If you Google “fake news” there are about 165,000,000 hits. There are websites creating fake news and even more being generated about fake news. So who is responsible for all of these lies? Is the problem due to “untrustworthy journalists”?
With the help of digital media anybody can be a journalist today and there is money to be made from fake news. In Veles, a small city in Macedonia, young people got rich by generating pro Trump propaganda.In the UK, Paul Horner has become a Facebook fake news “guru”. In the US, Jestin Coler’s company Disinfomedia owns many false news sites.There are fake newspapers such as the “Denver Guardian” and newspaper generators to create fake newspapers http://5found.com/5-online-newspaper-generators-to-create-fake-newspaper/
The matter in question is not so much who is responsible for the whole sorry mess but what is going to be done about it. Journalists should be held accountable to ensure a certain level of accuracy. Facebook and Google are implementing actions to help verify the validity of ‘news’ stories. However, little can be to done to counter the rapidity provided by social media to spread non-truths. Once something is out there the damage is done. As Steve Deace stated in his article on USA Today (25th Nov.2016),”Don’t be surprised when folks can’t tell the difference between real and fake news when too many people working in our newsrooms can’t either”.