“Love it or hate it, a free press is an absolute necessity to our way of life as Americans, [t]he liberty of the press is essential to the security of the state,” John Adams once said. Fellow Founding Father Benjamin Franklin called the free press, “a principal pillar of free government,” going on to say, “when this support is taken away, the constitution of a free society is dissolved.”
Over the past few years, in an attempt to discredit quality news sources reporting on political candidates, some cable and online media outlets began pummeling the public with the phrase ‘fake news.’ From there, it became incredibly popular to use any time a story came out that did not fit this particular party’s agenda.
Did the leader of your party instruct people to treat COVID-19 with bleach and horse de-wormer? Fake news!
The term originates sometime after the 2016 election when major website like Facebook, Google, and Twitter were working to eliminate false claims being made on their platforms, claims many believe played a huge part in Donald Trump winning the 2016 Presidential Election.
After having the term thrown at him every time he made a ridiculous claim over the next year, President Trump finally used the phrase himself in 2017, against CNN’s Jim Acosta, calling him ‘fake news.’
In 2017 alone, former President Trump used the phrase at least 157 times. From there, fans of former President Trump began to use the phrase any time they hear news they disagree with.
Now, here we are. Every day, legitimate news outlets have to compete with anyone that has a good wifi connection and an audience. Every day, trained journalists have to craft stories that combat false claims made by former game show hosts like Joe Rogen who now has millions of podcast listeners, to which he feeds misinformation to on a regularly scheduled basis.
Medical professionals are on their hands and knees begging the public not to listen to people like Rogen and Trump because they are seeing the direct results of the spread of misinformation and it is breaking their hearts, let alone their backs.
The mass spreading of misinformation doesn’t only get to your crazy uncle and the weird guy at the gas station, it is making it nearly impossible for the generally interested individual to find the real facts without having to sift through tons of junk. Many moderate news consumers are left not knowing what is real or fake a lot of the time.
These days you can easily find supporters for any point of view on a topic that one may have. Many also interpret TV and Radio hosts as they see or hear them which can be easily misleading given the tone of how the message is delivered. Many television and radio hosts have zero background in journalism, even if they claim to host a news program.
Was Rush Limbaugh a journalist? No. He was a radio personality who catered to a conservative following. Was his broadcast extremely biased? Of course it was.
He needed to keep his base for advertising purposes. Same with many radio, TV, and social media networks.
Even sports shows such as ESPN’s First Take, or Fox Sports’ Shannon and Skip are specifically designed to create conflict, which drives rating, which generates more advertising dollars. The hosts of these shows are told what their opinion is going to be before the cameras are even warm. They then argue that position with enough conviction to make you believe it is really their own.
That may be fine in sports, but in politics, it is an extremely dangerous game to manipulate peoples emotions so casually. Once you get an entire group of people with their emotions about to boil over, all it takes is a small speech like the one former President Trump gave in front of the White House on Jan. 6, 2021.
And that is when we see just how damaging a phrase like ‘fake news’ can be and just how close we can come to having our democracy, a democracy that was fought, bled, and died for before being handed down to us, a democracy that was not earned in this generation, crumble like the great empires of the earth before us.
That is why the truth has always been and always will be the strong foundation of a true democracy.
That’s why your local newspaper of record and local newspapers all over the country are so important, now more than ever.
Papers like the Loveland Reporter-Herald, the Fort Collins Coloradoan, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Denver Post, and the Trail-Gazette are all true newspapers with educated and trained journalists who not only understand but live and breathe the facts, facts that are properly sourced and then vetted by an editor as well as, in some cases, the Publisher themselves.
So, before calling something fake news, first, check the source of the item you read and whether or not it is a bylined article by an individual at a reputable news source, someone willing to attach their name to the facts, and not simply a 3rd party piece, advertorial, or an op/ed. In most cases, these are not fact-checked or are just the opinion of the writer. OP/ED’s are opinion pieces usually written to entice and engage discussions on a topic hoping that the readers will engage in dialogue in hopes of coming up with the best solution on the issue at hand.
I would also suggest that you check the publication that the article was first published in. Has the source been in business for many years? Is it a reputable news source, is it an audited publication regarding its readership and distribution?
A paper of record has to maintain 50 percent plus one of its subscriber base to print and distribute legal notices.
Local newspapers are of the utmost importance as they still are the local watchdogs to ensure that those who govern are held accountable to the people.
You hear politicians say it all the time, “real government happens at the local level.” If that is true, which we believe it is, than local news is the most important news to your daily life.
The primary function of the free press is to question those we have elected to govern us and the intentions of every policy, not to nurture their egos. Furthermore, it is the duty of the free press to be entirely skeptical of government leadership, never giving to the crime of complacency by giving the benefit of the doubt to anyone.
Now, in the new modern era, how the free press and newspapers distribute information has changed and many readers prefer to read the news online rather than in the actual print edition.
You can still find real news on social media, of course. Just like any form of technology, the internet is just a medium, it can not be a positive or negative influence. It is how the people use it that determines its value. We must learn to use the internet to make ourselves more informed, not less. At the very least, we must protect ourselves from being manipulated.
Be sure to check the source of any piece of information before taking it to heart.
Here at the Trail-Gazette we have over 90K website users and generate over 125K page views a month which is due to Estes Park and RMNP’s presence around the country. You can visit us for free online at any time at www.eptrail.com, or you can find most of our bylined articles published on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/eptrail.
For updates daily I might suggest you subscribe to our free newsletter, it has our top 10 news articles and is sent directly to your email address. Simply visit www.eptrail.com/newsletter to subscribe for free. This is a sure source of real news that comes right to your Inbox!
The fourth branch of our government is its free press, commonly referred to as ‘the fourth estate’. If we are to govern ourselves, as we do in our democracy, we need to be informed. That’s the role of the media.
“A sense of the necessity [of a centralized Federal government], and a submission to it, is to me a new and consolatory proof that wherever the people are well informed they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights,” Thomas Jefferson wrote on Jan. 8, 1789.