‘Fake news’

WIKIPEDIA defines news as information about current events, and Merriam Webster defines it as a report of recent events or previously unknown information.

The common denominator between these two definitions is that news is information, except for the fact that it is new information.

As it is generally practiced, the definition of “newness” would vary from one news organization to another, but it could safely be said that after a few days or weeks, the news is usually recycled as “features”.

In a matter of speaking, it could be said that features are really “old news”, but would really sound like an oxymoron. The older old news becomes, it already becomes “history”.

As it is defined, we could generally agree that any new information could be considered as news, regardless of who publishes it.

In the old days, it was generally understood that only a news organization or mass media company could publish news, but that has already changed now, because the social media now allows anyone to publish news in their own websites or blogs.

Of late, the term “fake news” has emerged, and there is now a lot of discussions as to what it is and what it is not.

As I see it however, the real issue is not whether it is “faked” or not. The real issue is whether it is truthful or not. After asking whether the report is new or not, we should then ask whether it is truthful or not.

In the old days, news was printed in the front pages, while opinion was printed in the inside pages. It was in those old days when news and information was never mixed, in much the same way that water and oil could never mix.

Also in those old days, the news programs in radio stations and television channels were separate from commentary programs, the latter clearly containing opinions, and not news. That is the reason why the media outlets would always issue disclaimers that the opinions expressed by the commentators are entirely their own, and do not express the views of the stations and channels.

Sad to say, it is very common practice to mix news and opinions in broadcast now, and some stations and channels do not even bother to issue disclaimers.

Also in the old days, advertisements that are presented in the appearance of news would always contain disclaimers that these are “paid advertising”. It seems that does not happen anymore, because the so-called “advertorials” are now presented as if these are news, without any disclaimers whatsoever.

Speaking for myself, I am not really comfortable with the term “fake news”, but if there is anything that I could consider as “fake news”, it would be the advertorials that are presented as if these are news, thus misleading the readers.

Of course, I acknowledge that the news business is also a business that also has to make money, but there are rules to follow. In fairness, Facebook also publishes advertorials, but they have the decency to contain disclaimers that these are “sponsored”.

Also in the old days, publishers are not supposed to dictate what the editors could publish, and neither could the editors dictate what the reporters could write.

Of course, the editors of that era could decide whether to print a story or not, but the editors are not supposed to dictate what the reporters could write or not.

I say “supposed”, because there might have been many publishers and editors who broke these rules even then.

The point I am making here is that in the mass media, there are rules to follow and there is a hierarchy that sees to it that these rules are followed. This is a formality that the social media does not have, and perhaps it is for that reason that the truthfulness of social media “news” could be questionable.

It is said that bloggers are not responsible to anyone except to themselves, but that does not mean that they could not possibly become responsible.

It seems to me, however, that the real issue here is more about credibility rather than responsibility. It does not matter whether someone writes in mass media or social media; the real bottom line is the credibility of the writer or the blogger.

In other words, the writer or the blogger could lose or gain his or her credibility depending on how truthful his or her content is, over a period of time. What this means is that the more his or her content goes far from the truth, the more he or she will go far from a credible reputation.

Going back to the basics, it should be well understood that bloggers are not journalists, but rather they are more of columnists or commentators. Under the rules, they are simply supposed to express their opinions, and they do not necessarily have to back these up with facts. They could express their own opinions no matter how controversial these may sound, but the more they could not back up what they write with facts, the less credible they would become.

To state the obvious, bloggers are not supposed to cover the news, because they are only supposed to express their opinions, a right that is covered by their freedom of expression.

Some people may be hurt by what they say, but that happens in mass media too./PN


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