It might be 2017, but it sure feels like 1984 to me. When terms like post-truth and fake news are used to explain what we used to call lies, we must be in Orwellian times. Just as in George Orwell’s novel 1984, political-speak is becoming doublespeak, language used to deceive usually through concealment or misrepresentation of truth.[i] Isn’t that the very definition of a lie?
I must admit that I “lost” it the first time I heard the phrase fake news uttered by a journalist. For weeks, I cringed when I read it. The other day, however, I realized that I no longer had the same gut-wrenching reaction to the words. That’s when I realized that I must – all people committed to truth, justice (like Superman?), and class and other forms of diversity must – resist falling into the doublespeak traps that will be set for us over the next four years.
Fact-Based, NOT Fake, News
How do I plan to do that? After years of watch-dogging traditional, mainstream media, I am committed to do my (admittedly) small part to keep the field from further shrinkage. In my opinion, we need an informed professional press more than ever.
As a progressive, social justice-focused communicator, I have long criticized mainstream media or being dominated by corporate, male and white owning class interests. I have fought against it, helping people learn to make their own media, use “guerilla tactics” to infiltrate it and advocate for more racial, gender and class diversity within its ownership and worker ranks. I still believe this is true and will still push for a more diverse workforce.
However, when our president, Congress and their supporters speak in “post-truths” and generate fake news, we need fearless press people to counter this disinformation with facts. When those in national leadership positions change their stories in an attempt to reshape the truth, we need tape and transcripts of their original statements and actions. And don’t think that I am unaware of the role that the national news media played and still plays in bringing us to the “post-truth” era.
But just as we need other experienced, trained professionals to keep our society healthy, we need journalists trained in uncovering and reporting the truth. These journalists include those in corporate media, media owned by people of color like Atlanta Black Star and Spanish Broadcasting System, and nonprofit organizations like Media Matters, the Women’s Media Center, ProPublica and the Nonprofit Quarterly.
Supporting Quality Media
So, I intend to consume fact-based news more regularly across various formats and channels. I will research the organizations providing this news to learn whether they can be trusted to provide less-biased facts. I will let media know when they “mess up” and when they do a great job. I will also do the same within my own networks.
I will send donations to nonprofit groups providing high-quality news. And, I will buy subscriptions to for-profit news sources. Expecting journalists and media organizations to function at a heightened level with declining income is like expecting my town to provide better service during a snowy winter without funds to plow.
And we need the fourth estate to function at the highest level possible over the next four years to keep us from swallowing the lies (yes, I said it) we will be told as post-truths and fake news.