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That darned fake news!!!

by Psyche Roxas-Mendoza

If you are a journalist, you would know that the term “fake news” is an oxymoron; a contradiction in terms. News by definition is the accurate reportage of an event. So, if it is accurate, how can it be fake? If it is fake, how can it be news? Get it?

But first the basics: Who writes or reports the news? Answer: The journalist/media practitioner. Media or the journalist gathers data and information and reports it as news following the 5Ws (who, what, when, where, and why) and 1H (how) format.

News to be defined as news must be accurate and factual. It should not carry an opinion. Only the stuff written in editorials and columns and aired through broadcast media by commentators carry opinions. To add one’s opinion in a news story is called “editorializing”—a no-no in journalism.

True, in the age of social media, the line between news and opinion has been blurred. But this is more a problem of the media networks that entered social media and used it as a channel for putting out reports.

Still, the rule on news and opinion writing remains clear and steadfast. Which is why it boggles me no end why so-called “influencers” and bloggers in the social media are regarded as journalists a.k.a. news reporters. They cannot be journalists because what these “influencers” and bloggers churn out are their own opinions about a news report or news item. They register opinions, not news. Mocha Uson is right. She is not a journalist. She is an opinion writer, very much like Ramon Tulfo of the Inquirer.

Columnists and commentators churn out their opinions everyday about anything and everything. But we don’t raise hell over their pronouncements. Because what they say are opinions. We assume these opinions could be biased, partisan, one-sided, and for the worst of their lot—outright lies. Should they really go overboard, they can be sued.

It would help if we traced the source of the term “fake news.” The term was popularized by Donald Trump and his spin doctors during the 2016 US Presidential elections.

I think “fake news” was purposely coined to put the established media (television, radio, and print) in a bad light. News accounts that they viewed as adversarial to Trump were labeled fake.

The problem is, the US media used the same term to lambast Trump. And there lies the rub, because in so doing, they ended up hurting their own profession. Because journalists are purveyors of news. So, if you start popularizing the concept of “fake news,” you demolish with one blow the centuries-old tenet on WHAT IS NEWS. Get it?

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