In the past few months, the phrase ‘fake news’ has become popular. When discussing fake news outlets, CNN comes up frequently. President Donald J. Trump especially likes to comment that this organization is responsible for putting forth fake news consistently. These accusations lead to an important questions: Is CNN fake news?
Technically yes, but so are a lot of other news organizations.
The Merriam-Webster definition of ‘news’ is ‘a report of recent events; previously unknown information’. To qualify as news, you technically need to just convey the facts. News is a report of what has happened, something that informs, a fact giving piece of journalism.
On the other hand, you have commentary. Merriam-Webster defines ‘commentary’ as ‘a systematic series of explanations or interpretations; an expression of opinion’. Straight news consists of only conveying the facts, while commentary is what happens any time the facts start to be spun or have opinions inserted into the mix.
So, as you may have begun to realize, real news is a rare commodity.
As I was thinking about this topic, I hopped on a stationary bike for my workout this morning. I mostly keep up with the facts through print journalism, but cardio days let me watch CNN and process their arguments (listening to things you disagree with keeps you sharp folks-you should do it). Although this morning I started off not paying a lot of attention, I perked up when the CNN talking heads laughed about President Trump calling them fake news.
So, I started listening closely.
CNN provides an awesome example of fake news (or, the better word that I’ve outlined, ‘commentary’). In the 45 minutes I was watching, I watched them connect dots on events that aren’t necessarily related (such as Obama trying to impose sanctions on Russia for ‘election meddling’ and General Flynn’s resignation). They also gave very one dimensional facts, not giving the full spectrum (again on the General Flynn angle, they only talked about the relationship with President Trump as advisor, not the fact that he was also an advisor under President Obama).
In the time I was watching, not once were just the facts given. As soon as a piece of information was cited, ‘experts’ (better known as talking heads) were brought in to immediately give a spun take on that information. If CNN was just a news network, they wouldn’t spin facts or layer them in opinions; they would just give the news.
So, yes — CNN is fake news.
Honestly though, it’s problematic if they’re the only ones being targeted with that label, because everyone in their industry, from Fox News to MSNBC, is fake news as well. If they gave just the facts, they’d go out of business. People keep coming back for the opinions layered however subtly within the message.
Commentary has its place and purpose, and you can still gain useful information from it as long as you know how they’re spinning the information and can pick apart opinion from fact. The majority of political journalism, if not all of it, is commentary, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In our day and age, however, we should seek out the cold hard facts and not just settle for opinions.
Search for truth. Look for the smaller organizations that report the facts and just the facts. Learn to have a discerning eye, and you won’t be swept away in the current of fake news.