76. Fake News

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My eye was caught a few days ago by a headline that just 2% of British adults put a “great deal” of trust in journalists to tell the truth. The research by Yougov and Cambridge University surveyed over 2,000 adults and found that 16% said they had a “fair amount” of trust in journalists to tell the truth, while the vast majority (77%) said they had little to no trust in journalists. In fact, journalists were found to be distrusted roughly as much as people who run large companies, UK government ministers and senior US government officials.

No surprise. There was a fact-free story in The Guardian earlier this week entitled “Manafort held secret talks with Assange in Ecuadorian embassy”. The story contained zero proof for its central claim that Donald Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort met multiple times with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. The plot holes in the narrative were gaping, with no efforts by the journalist to flesh out anything beyond “sources say”. Throwaway, rubbish reporting.

I was a Guardian reader for decades. Even though it has managed to maintain an image as a respectable mainstream outlet which markets itself to the political left, its biases in recent years have, for me, made it unreadable. If Donald Trump coughs, the Guardian reports it as some form of attack on minority groups. Its Russia conspiracy drivel, vicious undermining of Jeremy Corbyn and non-stop pro-war propaganda against Syria have all increased since its booting out of the legendary Australian journalist John Pilger several years ago.

The bottom line, for some time now, is that mainstream media globally, covering the full span of demography, is owned by a handful of billionaires, who have staffed their editorial boards and teams with establishment figures. The Media Reform Coalition found in 2015 that just seven corporations owned 71% of the entire UK media establishment. This not only has a serious impact on what stories are covered, and how public opinion is shaped, but it has made it professionally precarious for journalists to present ideas contrary to that status quo. As John Pilger found out.

I still go to the Guardian for its headlines. If a story interests, I will see what a range of other commentators have to say. Then form my own opinion, which may or may not agree with the thrust of the story. The journalism I look for tells truth to power, wears its opinions openly but ensures that it distinguishes them from arguments of fact. Putting names and dates to quotes, and backing contentions with facts.

 

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