As a journalist of many years, I think I struggle more than the average person when accusations of “fake news” and “alternative facts” splash across our daily readings.
For me, the attack is not just on “liberal news outlets” but on media and the propagation of information in general. It’s an attack on journalism’s very basic mission to fairly inform readers, listeners, and viewers.
It’s also hits home because I’ve heard it before:
Years ago, NickerNews was on the forefront of reporting one of the largest animal cruelty cases that Maine had ever seen. The website posted many stories about Brett and Alexis Ingraham, a couple in Clinton running “Fair Play Farm.” (An incongruous name if ever there was one.)
NickerNews assisted the District Attorney’s office when it asked for help with collecting information and witness testimony. After 15 horses as well as other animals were removed from the Ingrahams’ possession, NickerNews updated readers on the status of the case. Eventually, the couple was convicted.
The Ingrahams did not appreciate the coverage and called it untrue and “fake news.”
Then and now, readers must engage and ask ourselves important questions about the source of the information, the evidence to support stated assertions, and the track record of the news outlet. This reader responsibility is not unlike the prudence necessary for evaluating science reports as explained here in this article on the evidence-based model.
Some additional questions to ask ourselves:
— If we only listen to the news that makes us feel good, how do we grow?
— If journalists only write about approved topics with supportive bias, how is the reader (and therefore the greater society) helped?
— If we, as journalists and as readers are not encouraged to ask questions, think critically, and occasionally argue, what’s the point of having a thinking brain and living in a community?
Whether we’re looking for good horse information or good news information, we should be encouraged to dig deep, look for the sources’ angles, and weigh alternative points of view. We should be aware of conflicts of interests and ulterior motives. Abusers, people with something to hide, vested parties all routinely blame the messengers.
Thanks for your support!