Fake News

Fake News


Leonard Zwelling

Let me say this at the top. I watch a lot of TV news programming. I watch the NBC Nightly News every day. I watch MSNBC often and CNN on occasion, too. I do not watch Fox as I find what that network has done since its inception and since the death of Roger Ailes not even close to journalism as it seems to confound commentary and actual news coverage. Of course, that’s a pretty widespread fault at other networks, too. Half the staff at Fox has resigned or been fired for sexual misdeeds. Fox News is not news. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the rest of the networks are going there, too.

It you watch the 30-minute nightly broadcasts, you may get a smattering of real news and it is always abbreviated and surgically trimmed to fit the two-minute time slot and the pictures are usually from an iPhone. For example, the following is not news. Weather that already happened is not news. Are you going to make a decision based on it? Probably not. If you live in the bad weather zone, the bad news has already hit you. If you don’t, all that it means is that you won’t be traveling there.

Is a jaguar attack on an idiot trying to get a selfie really news? No. That people do dumb things with their cameras is no longer news. After sexting, what more can be done with an iPhone that is stupid? I am sure we will find out tomorrow at 5:30 PM.

It’s not really even news that Nancy Pelosi does not agree to impeach the president. Why should she? What does she get out of that but a huge headache?

Lottery winners and baby pandas are not news. How do I know? They are rarely on the PBS News Hour, the only serious news show on TV any more.

The cable channels have come off the rails. They do not distinguish between real news and commentary or as Woody Allen would say, a combination of commentary and dissent—dysentery.

I have to admit that I get my news now from the oldest source after gossip. The newspaper. Particularly two of them, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Why?

First, both publications have had the time to consider what they write and have had editors who actually read what the reporters write and, dare I say it, edit it. They clearly distinguish commentary and op-eds from news coverage and they tend to use two sources, at least, for all reporting. That is not to say that they never get it wrong. They do. But they get it wrong less often than do the electronic media and far less often than social media. And by using two sources with opposite political leanings, I get both sides. Both sides usually have valid points of view although you would never know that from cable TV.

I am not suggesting that we stifle any news source—even Fox. But we do need to recognize that some of these sources are in very close proximity with those who govern and the arrangement is too cozy. Even Ben Bradlee was too close to JFK. A news outlet needs to keep far away from the potential sources of the news. Fox, as The New Yorker recently reported, is the propaganda arm of the White House. Or is it the White House that’s the marketing arm of Fox News? I forget.

MSNBC is no better. They fill the screen with the liberal side of the aisle and do all they can to bash the President of United States long before there’s any conclusive signs of wrong-doing. There may well be criminal behavior on the part of the chief executive. I suspect he lies all the time. We kind of know that. The Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougald cases are probably crimes. I really doubt Trump was clever enough to conspire with the Russians other than as he usually does for any of his business deals in real estate. If anyone is going to bring down the president it will be the attorneys in the Southern District of New York who may be able to prove that Trump evaded taxes, broke campaign finance rules, and is a racketeer under the RICO standards.

But let’s just wait and see, shall we?

In the mean time, let’s devote the news programs to real news and not have them be echo chambers for those watching who already agree with their obviously biased points of view.

Trump is right on one level. There is a lot of fake news out there. On both sides! And, by the way, the news shouldn’t have a side. That’s called an editorial and even the local TV stations make it clear when their general managers are doing one of those.

There’s more than enough going on in the world to fill 30 or 60 minutes with real news about the economy, air safety, politics and foreign affairs. Let’s get cute out of the news and leave human interest for network prime time, Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Just say for me, I’ll stick to the newspaper. You might consider it, too.

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