​Trump lashes media with Fake News Awards ​

Viral: This image of Trump spread rapidly. But was Trump right to call it “fake news”. © Getty

Are journalists biased against Trump? The US president says they definitely are. They reply that he cries “fake news” when he just doesn't like what he reads. But which side is right?

On January 2nd, Donald Trump tweeted: “I will be announcing THE MOST DISHONEST & CORRUPT MEDIA AWARDS OF THE YEAR on Monday [January 8th] at 5:00 o’clock.”

This was fake news. They were in fact announced on Wednesday January 17th, but Trump was right when he added that “the interest in, and importance of, these awards is far greater than anyone could have anticipated!” The GOP website on which the winners (or losers) were announced was so inundated with visits that it crashed.

Of the 11 examples given, CNN were responsible for four, while The New York Times were singled out twice. The broadcaster ABC and the magazines Time and Newsweek were each mentioned once.

The term “fake news” first arose during Trump’s presidential bid. A widely referenced example was the revelation that organisations in Macedonia were pumping out content that they knew to be untrue. The term seemed simple and clearly defined.

But since Trump appropriated the term, the definitions have become blurry.

Take a look at the image above. Trump was visiting his Japanese counterpart, Shinzo Abe. A video circulated of Trump emptying a food box into a fish pond, implying that he had made a faux pas. In fact Abe, seconds earlier, had done the same thing, but the video did not show this.

CNN picked up on the video, tweeting it, showing it on television and on their website. A downright lie? Perhaps not. A dishonest ploy to make Trump look foolish? The president thinks so.

Making number one on the list was The New York Times’s Paul Krugman claiming on the day of Trump’s victory that the economy would “never” recover. Is this really “fake news”, or merely an incorrect prediction?

Yet statistics indicate the media is disproportionately skewed in favour of the Democrats. Nate Silver writes that “As of 2013, only 7% of [journalists] identified as Republicans.”

And many traditionally right-leaning media companies, such as The Wall Street Journal and Fox News, have been less fulsome in their support of Trump than of other Republican presidents.

One side of the story

“The media consistently downplays Trump’s successes and mocks his failures”, say some. Major media companies are located in overwhelmingly Democrat cities and employ people from elite universities. This demographic is the polar opposite of Trump’s support base. Given all this, how could they not be biased?

“Typical Trumpian paranoia”, reply others. If Trump were either successful or popular, this narrative about a “biased liberal media” would not exist. And as Lucia Graves points out in The Guardian, Fox remains the most watched news outlet in America. Media companies can lean left or right. But that is not the same as “bias”.

You Decide

  1. Is the media biased against Trump?
  2. Is the term “fake news” helpful?

Activities

  1. Name six media outlets, and list them in the order in which you trust that they tell the truth.
  2. Investigate one of Trump’s 11 awards, and explain whether you think the term “fake news” applies accurately.

Some People Say...

“The cure to eliminate fake news is that people stop reading 140-character tweets and start reading 600-page books.”

Piero Scaruffi

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The term “fake news” was unheard of just two years ago, first appearing when Trump was running for the Republican nomination. But it has now exploded, being named Collins Dictionary’s word of the year for 2017. Having first been used by anti-Trump journalists, Trump has now appropriated the phrase himself, consistently labelling stories that cast him in a bad light as “fake news”.
What do we not know?
Whether “fake news” is simply a phenomenon of the Trump era. Some argue it is little different from propaganda and biased reporting — something that has been a feature of human history since records began. Others believe that Trump, who tells more unambiguous untruths than most world leaders, is to blame for it, and that the term will disappear when Trump leaves office.

Word Watch

Fake news
Perhaps the earliest example of fake news comes from the 13th century BC in Ancient Egypt. Rameses the Great spread lies portraying the Battle of Kadesh as a crushing victory for the Egyptians. The treaty between the Egyptians and the Hittites, however, reveals that the battle was actually a stalemate.
Macedonia
More than a hundred US politics sites are run from Veles, a small city of 44,000 in the small Balkan country. One article traced to the town said that Syrian terrorists had attacked New York in December 2015. No such attack took place.
The economy would “never” recover
At the bottom of the page listing the awards on the GOP website, ten major Trump achievements are listed. The first is: “The economy has created nearly 2 million jobs and gained over $8 trillion in wealth since the president’s inauguration.”