On Wednesday, President-Elect Donald Trump took on fake news in his press conference in New York after Buzzfeed printed an unconfirmed 35-page memo that included unverified allegations about ties between Russian and Trump, which has caused a media frenzy for the past 24 hours.
“It’s a disgrace that information would be let out … It’s all fake news,” Trump said. “It’s phony stuff. It didn’t happen. And it was gotten by opponents of ours.”
“The media, both news and entertainment, have undercut everything that is great and good in our culture, and then they are surprised when no one believes them anymore.”
Later in the press conference, Trump refused to take a question from CNN reporter Jim Acosta. The president-elect said: “I’m not going to give you a question. I’m not going to give you a question. You are fake news!”
Incoming White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer also didn’t hold back about this issue during the press conference: “The fact that BuzzFeed and CNN made the decision to run with this unsubstantiated claim is a sad and pathetic attempt to get clicks.”
This issue of fake news and journalistic integrity has been swirling in the media for the past few months, but the issue seems a symptom of the larger dishonest nature of our culture in general. The social media generation lives on the web, on platforms built to make lives look more exciting than the reality.
Instagram, Facebook, Twitter — the list goes on — are all built for the function of self-promotion, whether it’s exaggerated or not.
What happens when those exaggerations and half-truths find their way into journalism or politics? It’s not just troubling — it’s a clear sign that honesty is not the most important thing anymore. Fame, self-promotion, and “being first” clearly are the primary focus — never mind being right. The issue is evidence of a moral decay in our culture, and faith leaders are far from the only ones to see this.
“I’m old enough to remember when journalism was thought of as truth telling,” Dan Gainor of Media Research Center told LifeZette. “The media, both news and entertainment, have undercut everything that is great and good in our culture, and then they are surprised when no one believes them anymore.”
Fake news is not a small problem and it’s not confined to the political realm — it’s a clear sign of a cultural and moral shift in America. Personal and professional integrity has always been vital to success, something never to be sacrificed. In a world of click-bait and 140-character reporting, even being first should not overshadow being true.
“Fake news is a euphemism for lying. It is calumny, and as result of this recklessness, the media is losing the trust of the American people,” Fr. Michael Sliney, a New York-based Catholic priest and liaison to business leaders, told LifeZette. “In addition to ethical issues, loss of trust can cost the news media its primary product: finding the truth.”
He added, “Rumors, accusations, character assassinations are not truth, and simply should not be printed or sent out to the online world without thorough vetting. Individuals as well need to do some personal vetting before ‘sharing’ or ‘posting’ these stories on Facebook or other social media sources. Trust demands verification. And verification demands a little patience and self control.”
While patience seems the antithesis of the media’s strengths, fact-checked and honest reporting cannot be sacrificed to the social media culture. Now more than ever, integrity and truth is invaluable to journalism and our culture in general.