The term “fake news” meant very little before President-elect Donald Trump’s first press conference since winning the White House. Social media users largely misused the term into obscurity by labeling even accurate information as “fake news.”
“Fake news” suddenly turned from a cringe-worthy and laughable label into something more sinister. The future president of the United States used the term to discredit one of the country’s best-known news organizations. Trump also called BuzzFeed a “failing pile of garbage.”
CNN and BuzzFeed – like most news organizations – are staffed with many great journalists who go to work wanting to fulfill their roles in democracy by reporting the truth and holding powerful people’s feet to the proverbial fire.
While I may disagree with decisions made by CNN and BuzzFeed from time to time, I know neither organization is “fake news” or a “pile of garbage.”
The above statement sounds silly at first, but I fear it’s a necessary declaration as the incoming administration grows more hostile each day to different members of the press.
Based on Trump’s actions since his election and today’s press conference, journalists – now more than ever – need to visibly and actively stand up for each other when singled out or excluded by the incoming administration.
“Recognize a special obligation to serve as watchdogs over public affairs and government,” reads one of the Code’s principles. “Seek to ensure that the public’s business is conducted in the open, and that public records are open to all.”
Perhaps journalists fulfill that principle by asking a question on behalf of a journalist being shunned during press conferences. Or, perhaps journalists fulfill that principle by confirming a peer’s reporting after the president labels it “fake news.”
The bottom line is that journalists need to put aside some of the competitiveness and disagreements and prepare themselves to stick up for each other from time to time.
Trump and his administration may become more receptive to the press and its mission after the inauguration, but journalists and news organization must be prepared if that is not the case.
We had a great News Conference at Trump Tower today. A couple of FAKE NEWS organizations were there but the people truly get what’s going on
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 12, 2017