Accuracy in Media

MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow went on a long monologue last night about the term “fake news,” but refused to acknowledge research showing that a majority of Americans believe that fake news includes biased news.

“That phrase “fake news” was soon adopted by President Trump and his campaign,” Maddow said after describing foreign meddling in creating false news stories online.

“And then ultimately by all Republicans, basically so that that phrase became theirs. And the way they used it, the phrase ‘fake news’ no longer described the thing for which that phrase had been coined. It no longer described this very specific aspect of the foreign interference in our election. the Trump campaign and ultimately Republicans converted that phrase so it would be used as an epithet against all journalists, right. Any real journalism, particularly journalism critical of president trump, would be fake news. It was also just an easy undermining epithet for all types of reality-based journalism, all real media is fake news, all journalism is fake news, all reporters do fake news.

And that had two effects. First, it undermined journalism and the whole idea of objective facts being the basis for political discussion and policymaking. But it also took away that phrase for a specific and legitimate use. I mean, them taking that phrase, fake news, and using it this new way sort of rendered mute, rendered kind of linguistically impossible any analysis of that very real, very specific initial problem for which that phrase was coined. That’s what they did with fake news.”

Maddow ignored the anger and perception among conservatives and Republicans that biased news is a form of fake news. She ignored, for example, Monmouth University polling that found 77 percent of Americans believe the media creates fake news. What’s striking is that 65 percent said fake news includes biased or slanted news coverage, not just factually inaccurate information.

Press bias against conservatives was highlighted in a 2019 Pew report that found 73 percent of Republicans believe that the national mainstream media does not understand “people like them,” according to the report. A 2018 Pew report found “Most Americans also continue to think the news media favor one side when covering political and social issues. About two-thirds (68 percent) say this, compared to three in ten who say they deal fairly with all sides. And as in previous years, Republicans (86 percent) are far more likely than Democrats (52 percent) to say news organizations favor one side.”

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