Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. Philippians 4:8
In our day and age, finger-pointing has become the chief activity in politics. Sadly, the mainstream media hasn’t helped. The term media bias now applies to almost every news outlet, and many politicians are quick to decry any news outlet that criticizes them as propagating “fake news.” The question is this: what is the difference between real news and fake news?
Understanding the difference between biased news and fake news
Fake news is exactly as it sounds — fake. A fake news story is a story about something that never happened but is purported to be true. It’s quite simple: if it didn’t happen, it’s fake news. The actual instances of the mainstream media writing a fake news story are quite rare; actually, this almost never happens. The problem is that many people have confused fake news with a greater threat to journalism: media bias. Media bias has consumed journalism and threatens to do away with the credibility of the medium altogether. Media bias is exhibited when journalists report on a story and twist it to fit their political agenda. The news media is a powerful medium, and when journalists abuse their power in order to spread their political agenda, they are showing media bias.
We’ll talk about media bias later on. For now, here are my criteria for real news: news must (1) come from a verified source; (2) employ the use of a witness; (3) keep a high premium on accuracy; and (4) stay as clear of bias as possible.
Real news comes from a verified source
This goes without saying. Any story that is published as news should come from at least one verified source. Sometimes that source is video footage; sometimes it is an on the ground reporter; but, no real news outlet would publish a news story without a trustworthy source.
Sometimes the sources prove to be invalid or false, and the journalist(s) that spread the falsehood has to correct himself. Mistakes are inevitable; but, more often than not, the sources prove to be well supported by facts, eyewitnesses, and experts on the issue.
Real news keeps a high premium on accuracy
A really good news outlet that never wants to be decried for propagating fake news should be most careful to make sure that what they are reporting on is true, verify their sources, and conduct proper interviews before publishing their story. We all know the famous photograph of President Truman holding up the newspaper with the bold headline, “Dewey Defeats Truman,” emblazoned on the front. Back then, it was an isolated incident, but, today, inaccurate reporting is in great danger of gaining predominance for the sake of sensation.
Real news steers as clear as possible away from heavy bias
We already dealt with what media bias is earlier. The question is this: is it even possible to avoid media bias? While it is impossible for anyone reporting to give a completely unbiased report, the role of the news media is to report on news, not interpret it. News outlets should be more open about their bias, so their audience is not confused about what they are reading or watching, and so they (the media) can be held accountable when they produce an inaccurate or overly biased story. The goal of the news media should be to accurately report on events and let their audience draw their own conclusions.
In conclusion, real news is careful to verify its sources, accurately report on an event, and do its best to let its audience draw their own conclusions. Fake news, on the other hand, tells a completely false narrative, paying no attention to facts or evidence. Biased news uses an event to push an agenda. Those in the news media would do well to understand that it is their job to report on the news, not interpret it.