Donald Trump aside, it seems that all folks are talking about these days are whether Tarek and Christina El Moussa, stars of the HGTV show Flip or Flop, soon will exchange gunfire; how Megyn Kelly will fare at NBC and how long her blond tresses will be; and fake news.
So what is fake news?
If I wrote that Beyoncé now has a withered face covered with a net of wrinkles and soon will begin her Whistler’s Mother concert tour, that would be fake news.
If I wrote that I have a head of hair that should be on the cover of a paperback romance novel and just signed a contract to be the commercial spokesman for Pert Plus shampoo, that would be fake news.
Then again, one must distinguish satire and comedy news whose intent is to amuse but not deceive from hardcore fake news that is deliberately constructed lies meant to mislead the public.
Once upon a time you could read the news with confidence that it was credible and accurate … things were crystal clear, much like a ray of sunshine that lies taut on the horizon like a drawn bowstring.
In the era of fake news, we read the news as through a miasmal fog.
With Twitter and SnapChat on everybody’s phone, anyone and everyone is free to be his or her own publisher and spread messages that could be true or false.
In traditional newsrooms, the cardinal rule ever since they invented the printing press has been: You don’t print anything that isn’t verified.
True journalists don’t publish a juicy rumor even if plenty of people are already talking about it.
Granted, straight reporting can be rather boring compared to sometimes sensational fake news that sizzles as though pieces of bacon were being seared in a skillet.
But straight reporting you can trust. In a time when superheroes are all the rage, we must not forget that Superman’s mantra is “Truth, justice and the American way.”
Sadly, with the shrinking of copy desks and fact-checking, it’s been easier for errors of fact and judgment to creep into traditional media, too. Still, the intent is not to deliberately deceive. It definitely is not fake news.
As for the real fake news, it hollows out true journalism, leaving it as empty as the shell of a pumpkin from which all the fruit has been scraped out.
So reader beware.