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Why News Journalists are Legally Allowed to Report Real News Along With Fake News

Updated on March 6, 2017
MarleneB profile image

Marlene believes people who serve the public should be honest. She occasionally shares her opinion on public servant professionals.

Fake news is everywhere!
Fake news is everywhere! | Source

All my life I relied on news journalists to feed honest and unbiased news to the public. But, for the past couple of years I have been noticing troubling conduct and conflicts between various news journalists and notable political figures. Today, I am suspicious of the "news” being reported by various news outlets. It appears that some news journalists are spreading malicious propaganda which leads me to develop a distrust of news journalists in today's world. Sadly, people I believe to be highly intelligent people rely on fake news. When they share this news they unknowingly spew more lies and rumors into the world.

Recently, I heard the president of the United States call news reporters, “The enemy of the people!” Later, he clarified that he was referring to fake news journalists, not all news journalists.

There are no legal rules for journalism. In fact, journalists have free reign to lie to the people at will. If they want to lie and spread rumors to the public, they can do so without any legal or professional ramifications. It is this fact that gives some journalists the moral freedom to spread the kind of fake news that feeds into their personal agenda.

I took it upon myself to investigate what attributes are required to be a journalist and what activities constitute journalistic professionalism. During my investigation I discovered the fact that journalists do not need a license to practice journalism. However, while there is a code of ethics outlined by the Society of Professional Journalists, there is no governing source that regulates journalists. They are free to do what they want to do. They are legally allowed to report what they want to report whether it is true or not. This led me to realize how little I, an ordinary person, can rely on news journalists to report the truth.

Unlike many public service professionals who are bound by an industry prescribed code of ethics, news reporters are not required to be held to any type of formal standard.

Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ)

While there are no legal organizations that monitor news journalists, there is an organization that provides a set of guidelines encouraging news journalists to be fair, honest, and balanced when reporting the news to the public. The guidelines are not enforceable, but they suggest a minimal effort that news journalists can rely on to be formidable, upright professionals in the business of serving the public to the best of their ability.

Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that public enlightenment is the forerunner of justice and the foundation of democracy. Ethical journalism strives to ensure the free exchange of information that is accurate, fair and thorough. An ethical journalist acts with integrity.

The Society declares these four principles as the foundation of ethical journalism and encourages their use in its practice by all people in all media.

— Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Code of Ethics Preamble

Professional Journalists Code of Ethics

Journalists who subscribe to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics agree to these four set of guidelines summarized here:

  1. Seek Truth and Report It
    Journalists should be responsible with the information they release, not distorting the truth and using original sources whenever possible.
  2. Minimize Harm
    Consider the public’s need for the information they report and choose not to report harmful and intrusive stories, especially when such stories are for the purpose of satisfying mere curiosity.
  3. Act Independently
    Journalists’ primary obligation is to serve the people, not themselves or political interests.
  4. Be Accountable and Transparent
    Journalists should take responsibility for the news they report. They should acknowledge mistakes and correct them promptly and prominently.

Should News Journalists be Licensed?

Because I am a private citizen with limited means to determine real news from fake news, I would like to see news journalists be licensed. I would like to see a legal entity created to monitor news journalists who report the news to the public. I would like to see licensed news journalists held to a certain set of news journalist industry standards. Then, I would like to see licensed news journalists who are found to be dishonest or who veer from prescribed journalistic standards be held criminally liable or fined whenever they are found to fall short of industry standards. In addition, according to the level of harm caused by dishonest news reporting, dishonest news reporters should fear revocation of their news journalist license.

Freedom of Speech

In America, we take pride in our First Amendment right to free speech.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

— The First Amendment

I believe in the First Amendment. I believe all Americans should be free to say what we want to say. I believe the press should be free to share the news at will. At the same time, I believe that the American people benefit best by having press that, along with being free, is honest and unbiased.

What About Opinion Writers?

Opinions are different. If writers want to speak freely, they should speak freely. They do not need to check facts. Writers who simply write about how they feel about a subject are not credible news sources. Instead, properly, they are referred to as opinion writers. Opinion writers are free speech writers who, truth or not, present their opinions. Opinions are merely opinions. Readers can either agree or disagree with the writer. Readers typically don’t rely on opinion writers to speak the truth.

Unlike with opinion writers, today's readers lamely rely on news journalists to report the truth.

The Fourth Estate

The idea of media reporting stems from the establishment of what is called the Fourth Estate, a term used as far back as the late 1700s. News reporters were held in high esteem and charged with keeping an eye upon our government and to report their findings to the people so that we could elect the proper officials. Some of today’s media entities seem to fall short of the ideals of journalism with regard to the Fourth Estate.

Be Conscientious About Your News Source

While some news mediums are honest and provide a balanced environment for delivery of the news, many news mediums operate from a platform that spews propaganda that supports a biased agenda. I no longer rely upon them as my ultimate news source.

Now, whenever possible, I go straight to the source. The media has become so untrustworthy that our current president, Donald Trump, bypasses the media, delivering his messages straight to the people by posting comments on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. In my opinion, it is a smart solution to making sure the public receives the pure, unadulterated truth straight from the source.

When President Trump won the election, a senior citizen friend called concerned that our social security benefits would be stripped. I encouraged my friend to stop listening to news reporters and get her news straight from the source. I recorded a sound bite of the president stating that he would NOT be eliminating social security benefits. I played the soundbite to my friend and she was humbly relieved.

The following video is endorsed by the American Association of Retired People (AARP). In this video, President Donald Trump states that he will not cut social security benefits. Listen to what he says during his campaign…

Donald Trump on Social Security

At the time my friend called me, news journalists were reporting that Donald Trump was going to cut social security benefits. It is clear from this video that Donald Trump has no intention of cutting benefits, but that does not stop unscrupulous reporters from lying and falsifying what he actually said.

Fake News is Propaganda

Although news journalists are not legally bound to tell the truth, it is not their job to spread rumors. It is not their job to tell biased stories that cater to their self-serving agendas. When news journalists are unreliable, our lives are placed in jeopardy and sometimes destroyed.

Fake news is the equivalence of propaganda which feeds into people’s paranoia and distorts their views about issues that are personal to them. They fear their needs are not going to be fulfilled by officials in authority.

When people hear and believe fake news and propaganda, in other words, when news journalists spin a story to their own false narrative without verifying the facts first, understandably, some (not all) people become disgruntled. Some people are so disgruntled they become aggressive and destructive to themselves and society. Some people relieve their aggression by engaging in rallies that sometimes lead to violent rioting. They set fires to buildings and vehicles, terrorizing the local inhabitants, and possibly destroying their livelihood.

The Source for Real News

Today, I rely only upon what I actually see and hear directly from the source. If I don't see and hear the words coming directly from someone's own mouth, I don't rely on the story being reported about it. This allows me to develop my own opinion and make decisions that work to benefit my family and me.

Resources:

Society of Professional Journalists:https://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp

Pew Research Center U.S. Politics & Policy/Section 1. The Core Principles of Journalism:http://www.people-press.org/1999/03/30/section-i-the-core-principles-of-journalism/

Poynter’s News University: http://www.newsu.org/courses/ethics-journalism

Dictionary.com – The Fourth Estate: http://www.dictionary.com/browse/fourth-estate

© 2017 Marlene Bertrand

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    • MarleneB profile image
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      Marlene Bertrand 4 weeks ago from Northern California, USA

      Hello Fiorenzo Arcadi. Thank you for your comment. I believe we should all be free to have our opinions spoken and heard. My biggest issue with journalists is that they interject their personal opinions into the reporting. I think their job is to report accurately and then let the people decide how they want to interpret what has been reported. I have no issues with opinion columnists. In fact, that's their job. I can choose to follow or not follow them. On the other hand, when I want to hear just the facts, I want a reliable source for those facts and to be honest, I feel journalists are no longer that source. That's just my opinion!

    • Fiorenzo Arcadi profile image

      Fiorenzo Arcadi 5 weeks ago from 1592 Bloor Street West

      In the beginning as a liberal I had written a lot of great articles about Donald Trump. However after he became president he became weak and therefore I attacked him. This man as President wants to use twitter as diplomacy. In the geopolitical world he is making a big mistake. Donald Trump is advocating a multilateral world which goes against the survival of the fittest. He made the choice and now real leaders will rise against him.

    • MarleneB profile image
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      Marlene Bertrand 8 weeks ago from Northern California, USA

      Hi Audrey, I believe you are right about positive news not being as big of a seller as negative news. Like you, I would be thrilled to read more positive news.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 8 weeks ago from Nashville Tn.

      I'd sure like to see more of "the good and the positive" reported. But I suppose this doesn't sell as well as all the negative that's going on. I really like this hub Marlene and will share with others.

    • MarleneB profile image
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      Marlene Bertrand 3 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Hello Dream On,

      In this world, it is good to be rational and objective. We really don't know who is telling the truth and who is not. The only thing we can do right is to teach our children the same.

      By the way, I am so sorry for the late response. I just moved to a remote location where internet service is a luxury. I get online only every now and then and even then, it is only for a few minutes. Thank you for your feedback. I truly do appreciate you.

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 3 months ago

      What scares me the most is being an adult who has learned to be rational and objective to the news how do I explain it to children who ask who is right and who is wrong. I don't think it's a good idea to say it's hard to say, both are part right and part wrong or I really don't know. Without guidance and leadership where do the children of tomorrow end up?

    • MarleneB profile image
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      Marlene Bertrand 4 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Hello Nadine, thank you for your comment. I have finally come to the point that I let people say whatever they want to say about a subject. If I can get people to look at various sources, it is all I can hope. I actually like your style. It makes me feel comfortable to share freely.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 4 months ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      What a great article on what is true and what is made up. I so agree that opinions are merely opinions. That is why I share my assessments in a kind of questionable format while writing about conspiracy topics.

    • MarleneB profile image
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      Marlene Bertrand 4 months ago from Northern California, USA

      DREAM ON, I like how you think. I also wish there was a reliable source that would lay out a side-by-side account of stories. I wish I could find a source that would cite a story and then show how it is angled on various news stations and newspapers. Let the people decide what they want to believe.

    • DREAM ON profile image

      DREAM ON 4 months ago

      Your article highlights some of the problems with the news today. Most people don't have the time to find out the truth. They read the local paper and take what they read as truth. After awhile we don't know who or what to believe. To bad their can't be an independent paper saying this is what we believe to be true and this is what believe to be false please leave your opinion and help us all decide. Each week different people can put their opinion for all to see. Let real people decide. So many news stations and with the Internet who knows what is true anymore. I am glad I do not have the pressures the news reporters have. If they say the wrong thing it could cost them their job. Thank you for sharing.

    • MarleneB profile image
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      Marlene Bertrand 5 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Hi MsDora! Yes. "Usually" news stories are labeled as such that you say, but many times they are presented as the real thing. I am on alert to read the stories halfheartedly, then do whatever research I can (with my limited means) to discern what is real and what is fake.

    • MarleneB profile image
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      Marlene Bertrand 5 months ago from Northern California, USA

      My dear friend, Manatita. You know me! I live here on earth now, but you know where my heart is looking to live ultimately forever.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 5 months ago from The Caribbean

      I know that there are falsehoods being reported in a manner that resembles real news, but they are usually labeled comedy, satire or some such thing. Knowing that we can be so easily deceived is unsettling. Thanks for bring this dilemma to our attention.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 5 months ago from london

      I agree. So much of what you say is true. I suppose I was just saying to keep your eyes and sixth sense open. We are dealing with humans, after all. Nature of life.

      Sorry to hear about the house situation. I believe that you had problems before, no? Do your best always, but yes, rely on the Lord. Give yourself to this world as though you were always going to inhabit it; give yourself to the other world as though you were going there tomorrow. Much Love.

    • MarleneB profile image
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      Marlene Bertrand 5 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Hello Manatita, it is always a joy to hear from you. One of the things that prompted me to write this article is because recently, I had to evacuate from my home because my home is located downstream of a dam in jeopardy of bursting. I had to stay away from home for 10 days. The more I thought about why and how the evacuation order was given, the more disappointed I became with how the news was being reported. It didn't seem like the people were given reliable information. In fact, it finally got to a point where, because the people were being fed false information, employees began taking photos of what was actually happening and they posted those photos on social media sites for the people to see and make life-saving decisions about their evacuation situation. These employees were all fired for their effort to tell the truth to the people. It is disheartening that we really don't know for sure if man landed on the moon. I have actually questioned such things, but have no way to verify whether they are true or not. I put less and less hope in man. My faith comes from above.

    • MarleneB profile image
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      Marlene Bertrand 5 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Thank you for your feedback ChitrangadaSharan. It is unfortunate that what you say is so true. While researching for this article, I was surprised to see that big businesses control many of the media sources. No wonder the news that we receive is slanted one way or another.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 5 months ago from New Delhi, India

      A very relevant hub in today's scenario all around the World. Sometimes I feel helpless watching the news on television. It seems that nothing good is happening anywhere and that's wrong . There are some very good things happening all around. And I believe most of the negative things happening in the society, be it anywhere in the World is provoked by what you call as 'fake news'.

      There is commercialisation of News and the big corporates own the channels . They will show what suits their own interests. There is no accountability and the reporting is often opinionated. While some would not get carried away but majority would get carried away by these news reports and that is sad but true.

      Thank you for sharing this excellent and thought provoking hub!

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 5 months ago from london

      My Dear Marlene,

      I do not wish to steal your thunder and it's a well - written insightful report and necessary for many. However, fake news or propaganda is not new and has been around for millennia in one form or the other. Governments use it internationally, organisations use it; lobbyist use it and individuals do.

      While there are some sincere journalists, they too can get caught up in it and in fact most mornings they take their briefings either from governments or their own warlords. The old saying that everyone has a price is pretty useful here and journalists who do not listen to powerful people, usually end up as casualty's.

      Sure enough, lots of good things are reported. But we do not know that Christopher Columbus discovered America, or 9/11 was not orchestrated nationally or that men walked on the moon. The only victory here is yours, Marlene. You are learning, as they say, to take things with a pinch of salt.

      Why do the Seer keeps coming? Only to tell us that Light must descend into darkness, in order to transform darkness, as there is no other way. Let us continue ... let us continue. Great insight from you. It can only be God's victory. Glory be!

    • MarleneB profile image
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      Marlene Bertrand 5 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Hello wilderness. I think you are right. It seems like "alternative facts" is the new classification for "news" reporting.

    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 5 months ago from Boise, Idaho

      Thanks for this, Marlene. I've gotten so sick of "alternative facts" coming from what should be reputable news sources. It seems anymore that if the subject is political at all the "news" we get is an "opinion piece" instead.

    • MarleneB profile image
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      Marlene Bertrand 5 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Good for you, Eric, for trying to make a positive difference in the world. I don't like the part about how you had to go to jail for your cause. I certainly do respect you for your determination. It is true that everything we do ultimately affects someone else, no matter how large or small the action.

    • MarleneB profile image
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      Marlene Bertrand 5 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Thank you for your feedback, drmiddlebrook. To receive such a positive compliment from a journalist makes my day better. I am glad you recognize that I don't think all journalists are bad, just the ones who tell lies and make up stories to fit whatever moves their agendas forward. Maybe one day we will be able to see a world where all journalists report the facts, and just the facts. Until then, we just need to be diligent about sorting through and weighing the value of what we read.

    • MarleneB profile image
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      Marlene Bertrand 5 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Hello MartieCoetser. Indeed, the pen is very mighty. A well-placed word here and there can spark up some of the most heated debates and uproars imaginable. I hope to see the day when reporters all subscribe to a reliable code of conduct.

    • MartieCoetser profile image

      Martie Coetser 5 months ago from South Africa

      The editors of newspapers seem to have lost the ability to be neutral; they have started to use their position to promote their personal views.

      Down here the enemy of the people cum friend of the corrupt sector of our government, has their own TV station and newspaper, which they use like weapons - They surely know that the pen is mightier than the sword.

      Readers have to learn the difference between news and propaganda.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 5 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Marlene back in the mid seventies in a very small town my buddy and I published a weekly rag. His dad and my mom donated the backing. A public health nurse administrator and an OB-GYN. We published about suicide hotlines and where to get condemns and birth control and clean needles and abused persons help. School board shut us down. They hated us. We said "screw them we will distribute off campus. And won.

      My opine pieces were accompanied my cartoons leaving no doubt. Our facts were unassailable as anything else would land us in the hoosgow as we were actually monitored by a cop car in distribution. I got arrested twice. It was cool. As the local magistrate understood free speech and was my Godfather's son. hihi.

      Your humanity affects and effects my humanity so cherish it.

    • drmiddlebrook profile image

      Sallie B Middlebrook PhD 5 months ago from Texas, USA

      MarleneB! You've done an excellent job with article--research, writing, layout and design. As a journalist, I know that the public has been victimized by "fake news" a lot longer than most know. Although the Internet has probably added a lot of fuel to the flames, actually, fake news (that with the intent of misleading readers/the public) has been around probably long before most of us were even born. Some of it is even recorded in history books as "history." And, as guilty as the Internet is for fanning the flames, it is probably also the reason that the public is waking up to something that has been going on so long, it is probably more of an "institution" in our society, rather than a current event. And sure, it comes in different forms, some more "yellow journalism" and salacious in nature, others more diabolical and insidious--with the intent being to affect the political landscape, to get people to support one side or another of political issues. All of it is an insult to our collective intelligence.

    • MarleneB profile image
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      Marlene Bertrand 5 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Thank you for your compliment, Eric. I have a daughter who works on television shows and the movies. Let me pause and brag a little... she has won an Emmy and this year nominated for another industry award. One day, she called and cried on my shoulder about how she couldn't take it anymore. She loves her job, but the news industry is very cruel in how they report "stories" to the public. Some stories are merely for the pure act of destruction. I guess some reporters never took a glance at the Society of Professional Journalists guideline #2.

    • MarleneB profile image
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      Marlene Bertrand 5 months ago from Northern California, USA

      I hear you, Bill. I haven't heard of the term, "influenced news," but I kind of like it. I guess instead of using the term "fake news" when referring to falsehoods, I should more appropriately say, "stories." It's not news, it is just a story placed in the news genre. I don't know, but I will continue to seek out the true stories on my own and that is about the best I can do in a world where the news may not be news, but simply another story.

    • MarleneB profile image
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      Marlene Bertrand 5 months ago from Northern California, USA

      Yes, Jodah. I do agree that, when reporting to the public, the truth should be told. Sadly, in all cases it is not.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 5 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Great article. Fake, Biased, Influenced, False and Misleading. One just must watch the great movie "Absence of Malice". We seem to be in a mode where public figures are not people. I have a daughter who plays in big circles in DC and I have a son who is a performer up in SF. From time to time nasty crap gets published about them. So maybe they are public figures but they are my children also. Like it or not Obama and Clinton and Trump are parents. They are not like Batman or a CIS character. They are real people. To publish something misleading and hurtful about them is to hurt those that love them.

      When a headline is elevated above humanity it shows the depravity of the author.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm one of those rare citizens, Marlene, who investigates claims made on the news. It would be a wonderful world if everyone would do it. Fake news? I'm not sure I buy into that phrase...."influenced news" is more accurate, I believe. News stations are owned by corporations, so there is a very good chance news stories will be reported in such a way to either lean right or left of the political spectrum....suggesting something based on a new story is not the same as telling a fake story. Fox does it, CNBC does it....heck, most news agencies do it. Thus, it's a real good idea for citizens to take the time and investigate the sources.

      Which is basically what you said and my way of agreeing with you.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 5 months ago from Queensland Australia

      Thank you for sharing this, Marlene. It is a genuine concerned that journalist are not bound by a code of ethics and that it is only encouraged. I used to be one to believe most of what I heard or read in the media..no more. Sensationalism sells and reporters seem to write so much unsubstantiated news that is often rehashed from unreliable sources. Opinion writers are a different story, but it must be made clear that these writers are only offering their opinion and not necessarily reporting facts. Newsreaders should be held responsible for reporting the truth.