Don’t call professional journalism “fake news,” even if it’s wrong

Is an error committed by a professional news outlet “fake news?”

In response to Time Magazine’s Jan. 24 note to readers, in which the news outlet apologized for its erroneous report that an MLK bust had been removed from the Oval Office, conservatives cried “fake news,” even though Time corrected the error within an hour of committing it–and apologized to the White House.

Here in Colorado, conservatives have trotted out the “fake news” label¬†when they criticize the news as well.

Calling errors by real reporters “fake news” is obviously a cheap attack on journalism, because it conflates the fake-news phenomenon, as it’s been debated since late last year, with inevitable errors committed by professional reporters–errors that are usually corrected as soon as possible.

The term “fake news” refers to a specific category of false information: falsehoods that are packaged to look like journalism and spread on social media, especially Facebook–which has agreed to try to eliminate “fake news,” not journalism, from its platform.

It’s not just Facebook executives but also conservatives and progressives who want to fight fake news.

So can we agree to see “fake news” as a problem that’s not caused by professional journalists? And can we agree that professional journalism should not be called “fake news?”

Don’t get me wrong. Journalists should be held accountable. God knows, reporters deserve criticism. But let’s not throw the “Fake News” salvo at Colorado journalists.

I know that’s not going to happen soon, with Trump leading the fake-news attack on journalists, but still, we can do better in Colorado.

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