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OPINION: When the 'Fake News' Dog Whistle Blows - Pagosa Daily Post

Author: Pagosa Daily Post

Source: https://pagosadailypost.com/2023/10/30/opinion-when-the-fake-news-dog-whistle-blows/

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Recently, a Pagosa Daily Post reader questioned the authenticity of an article I wrote — ESSAY: Issues Hover Around Proposed Terry Robinson Road Helipad, Part One.Specifically, his question to me via email was, “How did you collect and cross checked [sic] all this information you published?”He continued with, “It’s just that in a period of fake news, social media, we have to be super professional, don’t we?”Well let’s be real.I’m not an investigative reporter, who was getting paid to research and write that article.I didn’t go out of my way to collect and cross check all the information I had received.I actually thought my article was pretty clear that I was only sharing my impressions of what a group of neighbors I had met with felt about the proposed heliport project. I also included links to the pertinent documents for readers to check it out themselves.So I confess, I am not a professional in the news-generating industry.And neither is he.But, he does have a point.When someone writes from their own perspective about a topic—any topic, especially those that seem to be volatile and fraught with emotion—how does one know whether or not it is “fake news” and that they are being manipulated into believing something untrue?So I decided to investigate fake news.First, I went to the Source.Of course, for most of us amateurs that means a Google search.I typed in, “What is fake news?” and glanced at the top five results and only read what showed up on the search outcome listing.After all, how much time did I want to invest in this search?I was hoping to at least get some consensus from these top five.From the University of Michigan, June 6, 2023 (recent, that’s good):At its core, we are defining ‘fake news’ as those news stories that are false: the story itself is fabricated, with no verifiable facts, sources…From the Center for Information Technology and Society (hmm, they should know):The term fake news means ‘news articles that are intentionally and verifiably false, designed to manipulate people’s perceptions of real facts, events…’From the UO (University of Oregon) Libraries Research Guides, September 8, 2023(They probably teach journalism classes):Fake news is information that is clearly and demonstrably fabricated and that has been packaged and distributed to appear as legitimate news….From Webwise (an admirable goal but can we ever trust the world wide web to be wise?):Fake news is news or stories created to deliberately misinform or deceive readers.Fake news is often created to influence views or for political motives…And probably the “daddy” of all online information sources — Wikipedia:Fake news or hoax news is false or misleading information presented as news. Fake news often has the aim of damaging the reputation of a person or entity, or making money through advertising revenue…Next, I decided to put my own ego aside, and really truly reread my article, held up to the light of the online information about “fake news” that I had gathered.Was this story about a proposed heliport/helipad real news?Yes.No doubt about that.I didn’t make it up.The linked source documents proved that point.Was this story packaged to appear as legitimate news?Well, I sent the article to editor Bill Hudson, who made the decision to publish it.But he classified it as an Essay, which means, “the following article is the author’s opinion.”Everyone can have an opinion about the facts.Plus, the Pagosa Daily Post is a free online blog, which means that Bill Hudson doesn’t get paid either for publishing articles or doing extensive research on the facts presented.If you don’t know that by now, you should.In fact, I think you should read everything online with that nugget of reality in mind.No one is making any money on this… but did I try to damage the reputation of a person by what I wrote about the project?You might have read it a certain way, but I don’t think attacking someone personally is ever the way to communicate or connect with the underlying issues.In fact, in my article I say, “Certainly, I would never advocate targeting him [Baudouin d’Aumeries] in any way.”But what about this?Fake news is “…designed to manipulate people’s perceptions of real facts, events….” or “…often created to influence views….”Hmmm. My accuser might be onto something.Was I trying to manipulate your perception of real facts, events or influence your view of the heliport issue?There is no doubt that words — whether spoken or written — have immense power to influence, perhaps even manipulate, your understanding of any event, person, position or ideology.We’ve certainly become more aware of possible damage stemming from everyone’s unchecked and unfettered access to the internet.I don’t think our founding fathers fully anticipated the controversy that all too often erupts when someone asserts their First Amendment Rights.But, truly, in this Age of Cacophony, how do we know what is truth… and what isn’t?What really is “fake news”?It’s hard, perhaps impossible, to irrefutably answer that question, but I for one (just my opinion) am glad that we have in the United States a legitimate news media industry that is set up to safeguard its citizens from lies, misinformation or propaganda.The industry has the resources that I don’t have, to hire reporters, fact-checkers, editors and publishers in order to bring me information that I wouldn’t have known otherwise.I don’t like being ignorant of what’s going on in the world or in my community.Yet, I do hold them to certain ethical standards of integrity and truthful reporting.When there are other motivating forces at play, such as desire for higher ratings or greedy money-making or political agendas, we do have a right to question their motives and authenticity.A few other things you should know.When I was a kid, exposure to the news was limited; news programs aired at certain times of the day — morning, dinner time, and bedtime.And they were really boring. Plain, unadulterated facts can be extremely boring.Today, in order to satisfy the insatiable appetite created by the pressures of a 24/7 news cycle, news programs are full of opinions and commentary.Every one of them.That makes them kind of exciting to watch.I mean, in the Age of Cacophony, what will get your attention faster than an outrageous opinion designed to trigger a reaction and make your blood pressure rise?Who says people are apathetic?I remind myself, when I switch on the news or read any article about something happening in my community, I might actually have to form my own opinion or, oddly enough, back off from forming any opinion at all.And to do that, I might need to use what seems to be in short supply these days — discretion.I question what might be at the heart of the controversy. What really is the greatest good for the entire community/country/world as a whole?Will one side or the other cause harm to anyone or anything and eventually erode what it means to live with each other in a humane, harmonious society?I’m not a journalist, but I have been in the communication industry for most of my life.Frankly, when I hear someone brandish the “fake news” dog whistle, I just shake my head and try to stifle the urge to get angry or annoyed.They just don’t know what it really means.I encourage anyone and everyone to use discretion when they are exposed to anything in the news, or anywhere else.We can ask ourselves, “What kind of world do I want to live in?”The answer may determine the direction the human race takes.Yes, fake news is all around us. But the choices we make to view information and opinions in a new light might make the difference.Maybe then, we can all be whistling a different tune.Kim ElzingaKim Elzinga is a life-long lover of literature and the craft of connecting through the written word.A keen observer of human behavior, Kim has delved into both the mystical and practical sides of energy medicine, using her training in Reiki and neo-shamanic techniques to offer alternatives.

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