Fake news, journalism’s mask

David Waddle - Contributing columnist

What if I told you that a majority of what we define as fake news is actually a misguided definition of something else? Whether we are aware of it or not, reporting, journalism and media have vastly changed over the years.

In 2013, Katherine Fink from Columbia University wrote a paper on these changes. During her research, she found that in the 1950s and ’60s journalism was all about the who, what, when, where, and why. For example, she noticed that newspaper articles were mainly accounts of things that political figures said and not so much about the opinions of those political figures.

Events like natural disasters and wars were also covered, but again, journalists were only reporting the facts and not giving much detail about how they felt the event impacted the public.

However, in the 1970s, a shift in journalism began to take place. Journalists became more bold in the way that they reported things and all of a sudden journalists weren’t just reporting on events, they were reporting on causes.

Stories became less and less about the political figures themselves and more about their opinions and how it effected the public. Topics also changed to subjects that were relevant to the public like health, science, business, etc.

Journalists became more brave in their writings. They found their voice. In other words, journalism went from just reporting the facts to an increase in Contextual Journalism. All of a sudden, journalists took the liberty to include their opinions.

Analysis shows that only 10 percent of the news in the 1955 made up Contextual Journalism compared to 40 percent in 2003. This understanding of the way that journalism has changed over the years should give us a new perspective.

Is what we are reading fake news? Or are we having a hard time distinguishing between fact and opinion?

A great example of our current misunderstanding of Contextual Journalism was amplified during the last presidential election. The reason the entire world was shocked by the results is because we didn’t seek out the facts. We sought out the opinions that made us feel good and rejected the ones that didn’t.

“For there shall be a time when they shall not bear sound teaching, but according to their own desires, they shall heap up for themselves teachers tickling the ear, and they shall indeed turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to myths.” 2 Timothy 4:3-4‬

Are we going to be the people that Paul was warning Timothy about or are we going to use his words as a warning? It is imperative in these last days that we put aside our own desires and that we uphold sound teaching. If we don’t we will constantly be blown about by whatever doctrine and teaching makes us feel good only to be disappointed when the truth is revealed.

David Waddle is Pastor at the Lynchburg First Church of Christ.

David Waddle

Contributing columnist