The effects of “fake news” on journalists

A common theme seen throughout our political landscape is media sources and outlets being labeled the “bad guys” and their work being called “fake news”. At the Washington Center, our group has listened to multiple media outlets describe the effect “fake news” has on journalism and how they deal with this issue. This perception not only creates tension between political actors and the media but also with viewers. One example of this comes from one of our speakers, Kate Anderson Brower, a journalist who wrote an article about the First Lady, Melania Trump. Her article received heavy criticism from the First Lady herself and viewers as being “fake news”. When a journalist’s work is questioned for its validity, it not only hurts their career but also makes it hard for them to gain their reputation back. Therefore, “fake news” has been detrimental to journalist and media sources and with the upcoming election, it is bound to intensify

The idea of fake news isn’t new. It has been around for a while, but in recent years, there has been a higher rate of these stories being produced on social media sites. For instance, on Twitter, a study reported that fake news was retweeted more often than factual news. Then, this “fake news” was carried farther across Twitter so more users saw it. Last Friday, Former White House Press Secretary, Sean Spicer spoke at The Washington Center and gave insight on “fake news” while he worked under the Trump Administration. He started off by agreeing that “fake news” was highly prevalent prior to the election and after when he worked for Trump as his press secretary. However, Spicer mentioned that just because a news article is labeled “fake news” doesn’t mean it actually is fabricated information. The trend he noticed was that news articles were being labeled as “fake news” when an individual did not like what was being written about them. An example of this is from the 2016 election cycle when numerous candidates were running for office. President Donald Trump and many other political candidates used this term to criticize information and news that they did not agree with. This in itself is toxic because it damages a writer’s reputation when they are covering a story.

With the increase of “fake news” in recent years, journalists work has been called into question. Not only that, but it calls into question the credibility of the media source the journalist works for. Thus, media sources have to do a great deal to recover their reputations. During the seminar on Tuesday, Shannon Pettypiece, a White House Correspondent from Bloomberg and David Catanese from U.S. News & World Report were asked how they handle their stories being called fake news. Pettypiece talked about how she typically just ignores the individuals and remains confident about her work. While Catanese said he just stands by his work no matter what. The common theme we see here is individuals trying to ignore the rumors of fake news and continue to provide trustworthy information. Sometimes this is easier said than done.

Matt Vasilogambros from Pew Stateline provided a more intense experience when individuals were not happy with his work. He talked about how he had received phone calls from individuals he had written articles on whom were not happy with what he wrote. They had threatened to sue him for what they believed to be false information. Vasilogambros explained that those aspects were part of the job of being a journalist. They may not be the pretty parts, but they do come with the job. The biggest pieces of advice he gave were to always record everything to back up the story and always stand behind the story. Essentially, just because someone doesn’t like his story doesn’t make it not true, as a journalist, it was his job to provide the truth.

As for the future, I would predict the use of fake news will increase as we near closer to the 2020 election. The use of social media is at an unsurpassed high and I predict it will keep increasing as we near the election. During the 2016 election, “fake news” was prominent as politicians were trying to win races. According to researchers at Ohio State University, “fake news” stories had a significant impact on voters during the 2016 presidential election. These “fake news” stories, according to the researchers may have impacted the final results of the race. Therefore, with the 2020 election coming up rapidly and so many candidates running, the increase in “fake news” stories won’t be surprising.

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