Most Americans who have paid attention to current events since 2016 have probably heard the term ‘fake news’ at some point in the media. But while dictionaries are adding words like ‘hangry’ or ‘binge-watch‘ into their lexicons, the term ‘fake news’ has not received a definition. Why is this so, especially when it is a term that is so heavily discussed and inherently a contradiction?
Mirriam-Webster argues that the term has not taken on a meaning separate from the compound noun that it represents. But, perhaps, for some people, it has.
If you look at many UrbanDictionary definitions, people use the term to describe news that people, like President Trump, disagree with. While these are not official definitions, their existence and the many different definitions that exist, go to show that ‘fake news’ may be in need of some clarification.
While ‘fake news’ may seem to have been recently popularized, it has existed for almost as long as media itself has. People fabricate and sensationalize stories all the time. The issue arises when it is presented as substantiated fact.
Think back to history class. When the USS Maine sunk in a port in Havana, Cuba, the American Press immediately began to blame the Spanish. This caused so much friction between the nations that Spain eventually declared war on America. The effect sensationalized stories can have on the public can be a powerful thing.
And things have not changed that much. There may be more of an understanding of what is sensationalized, but many people still believed and shared that “Pope Francis Shocks world, Endorses Donald Trump” story.
But that doesn’t mean that it has always meant the same thing. And back then it was still just as believable and deceiving as now. With the availability of image manipulation tools and platforms in which people can simply make an account and post something,
So how are people supposed to spot ‘fake news’ if they don’t know what it is they’re looking for?
It is important to display every definition so that people can understand what type of ‘fake news’ they are seeing. If it’s an Onion article, there’s hopefully no harm since people know it isn’t trying to be real and informational; rather, emulating a realistic style for a comedic effect. But if it is an article trying to be real, readers need to be ready to verify it for themselves.
And people can’t hide behind the term ‘fake news’ either. There should be clarification that the definition of ‘fake news’ as a way to deflect from addressing personal media biases is incorrect. And if people knew it was, maybe we’d be able to hold people accountable for what they really mean and have them own up to their internal biases. So maybe it is time for some sort of attempted definition, and some defining characteristics to really point it out for people.
- Jack Eletto, USC Student
- Katrina Sigh, USC Student
- Sapehr Salehi, USC Student
- Edina Hiser, USC Student
- Hammer Wong, USC Student
- Laura Montilla, USC Student
- Sarah Hahm, USC Student