Fake News Fallacy: Why Media’s Not the Enemy

 By Lauren Wagner|Feb.18, 2017| 7:13 PM CST

Logical arguments can be made for media biases, slanting both left and right, but the use of “fake news” as an umbrella term is just a baseless insult. When one runs out of logic and evidence insults are the last refuge of the oratorical loser. There must be more to it than that…right?

Mason Cooley once said, “Flattery and insults raise the same question: What do you want?”

I believe the Trump administration wants to deflect, and skillfully uses “fake news” claims to change the subject from Trump’s credibility to the media’s.

At the press conference, last week, Trump was asked a valid question about the veracity of the leaks that lead to Michael Flynn’s resignation he replied,

“The leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake. “

Though calling something “fake news’ has an entirely different implication, it seems that Trump’s definition of ‘fake news’ is any story that criticizes, or even questions, him. It may seem like the press is Trump’s new enemy #1, but his real nemesis is the exposure of truth.

Professional journalists however, are expert truth-exposers. Investigative journalists thrive on it. Not only are they responsible for the legal limits of journalism, but also must strictly adhere to the standards of journalistic ethics. Their entire professional reputation depends on it. Those who invested in a journalism, communications, professional writing, or a broadcast degree take their credibility, and ethics very seriously. They learn, as I did, in school that one lie or mistake can ruin even the most promising careers.

The first code of ethics for journalists was adopted in 1923 and was called the Canons of Journalism. Since then new ethical standards have been adopted following new information mediums. Today, the Society of Professional Journalists has a Code of Ethics, which lists 4 main principles.

Code of Media Ethics:

  • Seek truth and report it
  • Minimize harm
  • Act independently
  • Be accountable


Journalists also know that if they print or broadcast fake stories or falsehoods they can be sued for defamation, slander, or libel. To win a libel suit 5 things must be proven:

  1. It was false.
  2. It was disseminated (by print, broadcast, or internet)
  3. The person was identified (which doesn’t necessarily mean named)
  4. It defamed the person’s character.
  5. The reporter was negligent in checking facts.

For these, and many other reasons, mainstream professional journalists do not create ‘fake news’. Ironically, the Trump administration’s repeated assertions that certain networks are fake leaves them very legally vulnerable. Their public and unfounded claims amount to slander and defamation. I predict some members of the media will soon be proving just how important their professional integrity is to them by suing President Trump for defamation. And they’ll win.

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