We’ve all heard the term “fake news” bandied about.
Yet how often do we consider its implications? It’s not just a journalism problem; this scourge profoundly affects PR pros, too.
John McCain wrote a powerful op-ed piece for The Washington Post in January titled, “Mr. President, stop attacking the press.” In it, he decries the weaponization of the term.
One of his most salient comments underscores what that weaponization entails:
The phrase “fake news”— granted legitimacy by an American president—is being used by autocrats to silence reporters, undermine political opponents, stave off media scrutiny and mislead citizens.
This assault on truth is a major issue for all communicators, and finding ways to combat it should be a priority for every PR pro.
Recognizing what’s at stake
The charge of “fake news” enables a sweeping devaluation of our news media partners. It empowers individuals to dismiss as “fake” anything they don’t like or don’t want to believe. It drives each of us to cultivate our own stunted garden of confirmation bias—tending solely to those things we already believe. Also, it fuels sensationalist social media sharing with little regard for a link’s source or credibility.