Is fake news just old fashioned spin?

Posted by  $  TomB666 3 months, 3 weeks ago to News
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Spin or How do we get ‘fake news’?

I saw a headline today that brought this question to mind.

Let’s begin with the education of news people. If my Journalism class was anything close to normal, students are taught to not only report the news but also to look for the underlying story that may make a broader social point. The professor went so far as to say that a reporter had an obligation to cast the report in such a light as to highlight important social issues.

For example, a reporter assigned to report on child neglect is sent to cover the trial of someone who ran over and killed a 13 year old riding a bike. There are a lot of angles that can be emphasized in covering this story. The driver who lost his license because of prior drunk driving convictions might make the top of your list, but what if the reporter had been told to concentrate on the child neglect side of the story? Would the headline read “Child killed by drunk driver” or “Unsupervised child killed while riding bicycle“? If the emphasis was on child neglect the reporter could write several paragraphs on how this child was allowed to ride his bicycle on streets, how his parents were not a home to watch him, how the school did not provide crossing guards, etc. Buried somewhere would be the part about the driver, who had lost his license for a prior drunk driving conviction, and was allowed out of jail on bail while awaiting trial on another drunk driving charge.

Some of us might emphasis the “repeat drunk driving offender killed child while out on bail” aspect. But if that is not the story the editor wants then that will not be the headline. There can be any number of reasons why one headline would be chosen over the other. Does not making the drunk driver the headline make it fake news? In my opinion not so much fake as grossly misleading, but that is because I am more concerned with keeping habitual drunk drivers off the road so these sorts of killings would not happen. But then I’m telling the story from my point of view – imparting my ‘spin’ on it as it were.

Given the highly divisive news and political environment (again my spin) I think we are lucky when all relevant information is included in the story. We have to ignore headlines for the most part, except to note that the editor or reporter shows his bias by the words chosen for the headline. If we read a story that is entirely one sided then we know we are being mislead.


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  • Posted by freedomforall 3 months, 3 weeks ago
    Great comments, Tom.
    Repeatedly I see headlines that have very little in common with the actual facts of a story. It's not news; it's propaganda, intentionally designed to manipulate public opinion with no basis in reality.
    For example,Yahoo "news" headlines are more likely to mislead than to inform. I think it has been happening for centuries, but in the past it wasn't as blatant so frequently. Today there is an epidemic of unethical, manipulative publications.
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