‘We should be clear eyed about fake news’

BY Bill Reagan

Fake news. The president complains about it. The Russians spread it on social media. This newspaper ran a front page article this past week to help readers identify it.

We should be clear eyed about fake news. CNN and Fox News are often accused of bias by those who call themselves conservatives on the one hand and those who call themselves liberals on the other. Many people forget that all news organizations have an editorial department.

CNN, Fox News and the Valley Morning Star report the facts, and their editorial departments tell us what they think the facts mean. There is nothing fake about having an editorial position. The opinions expressed on this page are not news, but they may help readers understand and interpret the news.

Editorial points of view may creep into reporting. Nobody is perfect, including reporters, but that does not make the reporting fake. Fake news is the screaming lies of the tabloids, and the trolling manipulation by Russians and others on social media.

It is easy to counter fake news. The only requirements are truth and thinking. Many look to news outlets to confirm their biases, not to challenge them. Informed, responsible citizens know that very few issues are black and white. No politician or party is infallible. No news medium is always right, or always wrong. Some news organizations are better than others.

Tribalism and factionalism are part of human nature. We often define ourselves by the people or ideas we are against, not by the things we are for. Indignation is easier than understanding. The motivation for this behavior is fear – of the unknown, of change, for our own security, fear that we might be wrong.

Despots love fear and factionalism and use them to take away your freedom. We are often reminded that freedom isn’t free. Freedom isn’t easy, either. Freedom requires our responsibility to thoughtfulness and truth. No one finds thinking and truth by confirming biases.

So, if you think you are a liberal, watch Fox News, a conservative, tune in CNN. Let the opposite point of view challenge you. You might learn something.

Bill Reagan is executive director of Loaves & Fishes of the Rio Grande Valley.