Why real news is so important 


A little over a year ago — with a deadline a few days before the 2016 presidential election and no idea that Donald Trump was about to be elected the 45th president of the United States — I wrote that whoever was elected deserved our patience. I also suggested that the media needs our trust.

As I reread my words — “We need to hold our politicians and our media accountable. But we also need to give them all the chance to do their jobs” — I was so young and optimistic back then. Because here we are with a president who’s more concerned with ratings than citizens and who’s painted the media as an enemy of the people.

Any hopes of “fake news” fading faster than the Broncos’ chance for a playoff bid have been dashed as the accusations have only gained momentum. According to trumptwitterarchive.com, the president tweeted about “Fake News” 164 times since becoming president. Given our early holiday deadlines, there’s a good chance that number will be higher by the time you read this. (Ironically, Trump also tweeted 158 times about Fox News or Sean Hannity.)

Adding to the term’s longevity, last month Collins Dictionary named “Fake News” Word of the Year 2017. (Not to be a stickler, but Collins, shouldn’t that be Words of the Year?)

Matt Lubich, president of the Colorado Press Association, wrote in a Dec. 11 column, “I’ve said that love him or [loathe] him, President
Donald Trump has done our industry a favor by bringing so much attention to our business. It’s a chance to redefine ourselves with our readership. But I worry we’re getting grit in our keyboards by getting down in the sandbox with him and all the others, who now, when they don’t like a story, simply call it ‘fake news.’”
As I lectured to a class of freshmen this semester, I was reminded that there’s confusion between fake news and biased news. Growing up as digital natives, today’s college students are inundated with information and they don’t always understand or respect the values of traditional media. What I told the students stands true for everyone: Check your sources. With social media, we’re all producers with audiences of varying sizes. Before sharing, do 60 seconds of work to verify the validity of what you’re about to broadcast.

While I agree with Lubich about the threat of getting in the sandbox with our detractors, I don’t think this attention to our business is beneficial and I’m not sure about the need to redefine ourselves. Yes, the traditional media business model needs to be redefined in order for journalism to survive. But the values of journalism need to be embraced. Instead of redefining ourselves, let’s hunker down and do what media does best: hold institutions accountable, be a watchdog for the public and give voice to the voiceless.

When that happens, we see the best from media — and we saw that in 2017.

Following The New York Times’ October report about sexual harassment allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, the #metoo movement took off. It seems like every day brings a new headline of a high-profile man held accountable for his actions. The Times, like many media organizations, has felt the fallout personally: Political reporter Glenn Thrush was suspended last month while the newspaper investigates the allegations against him when he worked for a previous employer.

I admit, I feared #metoo would go the way of the ice-bucket challenge, with a sudden burst of attention that quickly faded. That’s not the case. Why? Because instead of simply being a social-media trend, its foundation comes from the work done by traditional media. Media built on ethics and process. That process was highlighted late last month as a woman approached The Washington Post with accusations against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. Despite other publicized accusations against Moore, the Post looked at the woman’s claims and conducted a background check. Her story was debunked (and the newspaper reported she was part of a sting to expose media biases). Instead of taking what could be the easy route and piling on to existing accusations, the Post reporters put in the time and investigated. This is also journalism at its best.

A year later, I am no longer asking for patience. Mine ran out months ago. What I am asking for is your support of journalism. Support real news.

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