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Stop Calling Everything “Fake News”


The following is an excerpt from Will Oremus | December 6, 2016 | Slate.com |

Two months ago, almost no one was talking about fake news. A Google Trends search for the term shows that it barely registered before October. Now you can hardly turn on the real news without hearing it.

Fake news is a real, specific problem. But in all the furor around who’s making it, who’s sharing it, its impact, and how to stop it, it’s easy to lose sight of something more fundamental: what it is. The broader the definition, the less useful the concept becomes—and it’s already verging on counterproductive.

In recent weeks, the term fake news has been applied by various media sources to everything from Breitbart News to Donald Trump’s tweets to the media commentary of CNN’s Brian Stelter. Among the challenges the media faces today, combatting fake news should rank as a relatively straightforward one compared with thornier issues such as bias, sensationalism, and the problem of objectivity. But lumping these together under the banner of fake news makes them all harder to solve. The way to combat actual fakery in journalism is to keep the definition narrow enough that reasonable people across the political spectrum can agree on what does and does not meet the criteria.

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