Can We Fix Fake News?
By Jim Boyer
Regardless of the arguments attempting to deny the existence of fake news or down play its impact, the truth is that it has infected both journalism and social discourse.
The business of propaganda or creating false news for the purpose of manipulating public opinion is not new. People like Dan Rather have made a career of it, the New York Times built an empire using it and CNN created a worldwide brand, making the use of fake news an accepted format in the process.
We all know the problem exists, to say it doesn’t is foolish. However, simply recognizing it falls short of actually taking action. Leaders and morally responsible legislators are going to have to face the problem at some point since it is obvious that the industry that created it is either unconcerned, or powerless to do so.
Deception does not act on anyone’s behalf, except for those who’s corruption knows no bounds. Recognizing and naming the problem is not enough. We both need and should expect workable ideas on how to combat this journalistic cancer. But what are we to do? Is there anything that should be done – or better yet, is there anything that can be done?
The first amendment guarantees both free speech and freedom of the press. It is fundamental to the preservation of our republic. In the view of most people who respect our constitution, that freedom must not be tampered with. Subsequently, most of us believe preservation of our constitution must be our mission. So, the idea of restricting or altering that freedom is abhorrent to the majority. But, why shouldn’t it be possible to apply some regulatory measures that can function in the spirit of protecting freedom?
I contend that by far the most active purveyors of fake news are the leftists. They reach a large number of people by publishing or broadcasting a false or misleading story line that is automatically picked up by their late-night TV accomplices for distribution to low information and gullible viewers. With this strategy they can politicize any issue and influence the opinions of a good many people who listen to and follow the lead of peer groups they want to be accepted in.
Recognizing that the folks on the left are obsessed with controlling and regulating all of us and all elements of our lives, it could serve us well to take a lesson from them and while avoiding abusive regulation, give a look to what some simple guidelines may do to help us rein them in just a bit.
Over time, we have accepted the idea of testing ability and knowledge of protocol for the purpose of licensing every occupation in our society from selling real estate or building homes to cutting hair. So, it could be argued that it would benefit us to establish guidelines that would encourage good behavior without over regulating activity on the part of the media, too.
As we do with the ratings system for movies, we could implement simple tools for informing the reading and viewing public about the efficacy of those who deliver the news. Restaurants and hotels have a rating of up to five stars with which to judge them, why not media outlets or journalists themselves?
A simple star rating under the name style of a newspaper or following the name of a reporter would be an easy identifier to display both accuracy and honesty. The same would apply to television news stations whose star rating could become a tagline addition to their brand logo.
I suggest that every journalistic endeavor could have the ability to maintain a five-star display. But with stories that must be retracted, sources that are discredited, lies that are exposed and films, pictures or soundbites that are fraudulently edited, stars would be taken away. A noted number of small misstatements could result in the loss of maybe just one-half star while a knowingly false report, unsourced lie or doctored photo could result in the immediate loss of a full star, or more.
Understandably, a reporter would take pride in a five-star display while the public would learn to place lesser faith in a news report from a source with only one star.
I doubt it would take very long for media corporations to start bragging about their five-star rating were they able to maintain one. Nor would it be unexpected for competitors to make an issue of a reporter who has degraded his or her own rating with poor behavior or plagiarism.
It stands to reason that with the news business being as competitive as it is, the ability to gain the trust of the public through a five-star rating would be financially rewarding. I also think seeing the truthfulness and reliability of media personalities and outlets right up front would be very appealing to the public at large.
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