They want to corner the market on “fake news.”
Opening a new chapter in the degradation of what was once at least a semi-honorable profession, a Florida chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has applied to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for exclusive rights to use the term “fake news,” the group’s president announced on Tuesday.
And naturally, it’s all because of President Donald Trump.
Taking to the pages of Teen Vogue — a publication trusted by generations of journalists for information about their profession — SPJ’s Florida Pro chapter president Emily Bloch wrote to explain that the chapter was really tweaking Trump for his constant attacks on what he calls “fake news.”
And she ended up proving Trump’s point.
“Trump’s hefty use of the term — and the way it’s caught on among his followers — threatens the livelihood of healthy discourse within a democracy,” wrote Bloch, who is also a reporter with The Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville.
“According to a study by the Knight Foundation and Gallup, American trust in the media is at an all-time low, and 40% of Republicans say accurate news stories that cast a politician or political group in a negative light should ‘”always” be considered fake news.'”
“So we decided to trademark it.”
Actually, what truly threatens the “livelihood of healthy discourse” in American democracy is the willingness of supposedly object news organizations to substitute political preferences for an honest judgment of current events — and warp the presentation of the news accordingly.
That’s what makes Americans distrust news. Not Trump’s unusual willingness to call it out.
It’s not a particularly new phenomenon, of course. Conservatives have griped about the liberal bias of establishment news organizations for decades — with considerable cause.
But the problem reached sickening proportions during the Obama years, when every Democratic initiative from “cash for clunkers” to the obscenity of Obamacare were treated like a renewal of the Bill of Rights.
And just the past few years have seen a seemingly endless stream of media-generated lies about major public issues. Just to name a few:
- NBC doctored a 911 tape to make George Zimmerman appear to be a racist murderer in the Trayvon Martin killing in Florida in 2012. (A court threw out Zimmerman’s defamation lawsuit, but there was no dispute about what actually happened. Just the intent involved.)
- “Hands up, don’t shoot” became a national rallying cry of the Black Lives Matter movement stemming from the shooting of Michael Brown by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014. An extensive investigation — by the Obama Justice Department no less — showed the shooting was justified, as The Washington Post no doubt hated to report. Yet the Black Lives Matter protests continued and helped spawn the current climate of distrust between cops and the communities that most need their protection.
- More recently, the country was treated to a years-long investigation by a special counsel with a team of anti-Trump prosecutors that was constantly reported to be on the verge of finding a crime which would end the Trump presidency. When the big reveal finally came, it not only turned out to be nothing, but the man who was allegedly in charge of the investigation appeared to be unfamiliar with even its basic facts.
- And just last week, the results of an undercover video operation found documented proof that the executives of CNN have a vendetta against Trump that shapes the network’s coverage. (Hardly a surprise to anyone with only a passing acquaintance with the work of Jim Acosta, Don Lemon & Co.)
These are just a couple of examples, and none of them happened in a vacuum.
As evidenced by the column in Teen Vogue, too many American journalists have taken on a mission far different from simply reporting on reality. In large part, they’ve taken on the goal of pursuing a liberal agenda.
In August 2016, New York Times media writer Jim Rutenberg wrote a column that was published on the newspaper’s front page explicitly declaring that journalists had a duty to oppose the Trump campaign (an attitude that has clearly bled over into the Trump presidency).
“It may not always seem fair to Mr. Trump or his supporters. But journalism shouldn’t measure itself against any one campaign’s definition of fairness. It is journalism’s job to be true to the readers and viewers, and true to the facts, in a way that will stand up to history’s judgment,” Rutenberg wrote.
“To do anything less would be untenable.”
The good folks at the Florida Pro chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists probably agree.
But what’s actually untenable is for a profession to proudly proclaim itself to be “unbiased,” while at the same time crafting its product to what it thinks will “stand up to history’s judgment.”
History’s judgment is for historians to make.
It’s not for news reporters and editors in real time to conjure in their heads — no matter how much they want to believe it.
When they try to do that, when the object of “journalism” becomes pushing an agenda rather than presenting reality, it stops being news and it becomes propaganda — and in the United States, that propaganda goes in only one political direction.
As the 2020 election gets closer that’s only going to become more — and more painfully — evident.
The Teen Vogue column admits the attempt to trademark “fake news” is satire, an act meant to “troll” the president of the United States — maybe confusing SPJ for “SNL.”
It should have occurred to someone at the SPJ — or even the editors at Teen Vogue – that petty, sophomoric stunts like this are exactly why normal Americans don’t trust modern journalism.
They just prove what Trump and many media critics have been saying all along.
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