Journalism

When ‘Fact-Checking’ Fake News Means One-Sided Questions

It’s funny to me how some people who are obviously partisan try to engage in fact-checking news they clearly hope is false.

I saw a comment online from a news consumer who appeared to be “fact-checking” a photo of former President George W. Bush.

In the photo, Bush is shown delivering a stack of pizza boxes to men identified as secret service agents. As part of the government shutdown, which was in Day 28 when the photo was taken, Bush was trying to make a gesture of assistance for the federal employees who aren’t getting paid.

Time was one of many media outlets that ran the photo. If you click the link and examine the photo, you see Bush from behind. You see the back of his head and just a slight amount of his face.

The commenter asked if there was “proof” that the photo actually was of George W. Bush, suggesting, not so subtly, that it was “fake news.” As if no one asked either the photographer or Bush’s own secret service agents whether they actually received pizza.

I wonder if the commenter would have been happy if the story also included a second photo of the person delivering pizza — Bush himself — holding up his ID while mugging for the camera.

The funny thing is that you can look at this commenter’s other posts and see a clear bias in the opinions expressed. The bias makes me wonder if a similar photo showing the back of former President Barack Obama would have been questioned at all.

Honestly, I doubt if it would have.

That’s a real problem with claims of “fake news.”

Too often, the news people call fake isn’t inaccurate: it merely paints the “heroes” whose point of view match their own in what they perceive as a negative light.

It’s not that they’re out fact-checking all stories: they’re merely questioning the ones they don’t agree with. Or the ones who make people of opposite political parties look like they’re making a nice gesture.

Their “fact-checking” isn’t checking for facts: it’s desperately seeking a way to discredit any account of an incident that might make anyone sympathetic to the other side of the coin.

You’d be surprised how many instances of this those of us who work in the journalism industry see.

The individuals, if ever confronted about it, will of course deny any such bias on their part even as they go on pointing the accusatory finger at anyone who reports what they think goes against their own preconceived notions.

I’m not saying ‘fake news’ doesn’t exist.

I am saying, however, that it doesn’t exist in the mainstream media near as much as those who claim to see it actually do.

I am also saying that if you’re going to be one of those people who take it upon yourself to accuse others of “fake news,” you need to be responsible yourself in what you question and how often you question it. If you’re not willing to apply the same standards universally, you’re not helping. In fact, you’re part of the very problem that is causing the phrase “fake news” to even circulate.

If you’re only willing to question stories that make the other side look good and your side look bad, you’re looking for fake news yourself: you just want the kind that’s “friendly” to your side.

And in our republic, that’s not helping anyone.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.