Cartoon: woman holding nose and complaining about fake news Instead of focusing on fake news, let's focus on real news

By Jeffrey Baumgartner

You have doubtless observed that the world is in much of a huff over fake news. Very likely it helped bring Donald Trump to global power; and encouraged the Brits to vote in favour of leaving the European Union and wrecking their economy. It has fed the divisiveness that permeates political and social discourse today. It leaves racists, bigots and shitheads thinking their disgusting views are okay, when they are absolutely not okay.

As a result, governments and more responsible social media company leaders are talking about the need to tag fake news as fake news so that people can form more responsible opinions based on fact.

This is a good idea, but not an easy one to realise two reasons. Firstly, people tend to look for media that reinforces, rather than questions, their views no matter how perverse those views are. Secondly, no media source wants to be tagged as fake news. No media is going to to post a warning message along the lines, for example, of those that grace cigarette packages today. Moreover, if fakenewspretendingtobeglobalnews.com is tagged as fake news at lunch time today, it can relaunch as hahawearestillfakingnews.com by cocktail hour if not sooner. Thus, it becomes impossible to tag fake news in any lasting manner.

Cartoon: man says he loves real newsSo, here's a thought, instead of trying to tag fake news as fake, why not focus on tagging responsible media as being real news? There are a handful of journalist groups, such as the Society for Professional Journalists, Association of European Journalists and others with similar codes of ethics. It would not be difficult to come up with a set of standards, based on journalists' codes of ethics, for recognising real news.

A separate, independent body could be established for evaluating news media and granting a real news tag. Unlike the fake news tag, real news certification is something that news providers of all kinds would wear with pride.

Sure, it won't be easy. The US president is keen on calling responsible news outlets, that criticise him, as fake news in spite of some of these outlets' outstanding reputations. Other authoritarian leaders are likely to behave similarly. Moreover, fake news outlets would doubtless try to fake certification or claim conspiracy theories to explain their lack of certification.

Nevertheless, it is a step in the right direction. So, what are we waiting for? Let's stop obsessing about fake news and promote real news instead!


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