Real Newspapers . . . Real News!

That’s the theme of National Newspaper Week being observed across the nation this week. The catchphrase is perfect — short, simple and to the point.

Today, as I was out running work-related errands, two people asked me conversationally, as a member of the media, how I felt about the “fake news” phenomenon sweeping the country.

Unfortunately, I’ve had plenty of time to think about fake news. I see it daily, mostly online, and while my first instinct is to find out if it’s true, I know it’s not everyone’s first thought.

Many people are guilty of clicking “share” on social media without first asking: Is anyone else reporting this? Are they reporting it in the same way? Are there conflicting articles? Is this real? Who is reporting this?

Not everything you read is real. Sometimes, it’s clearly labeled as satire while other times, it’s harder to tell.

I tend to steer clear of anything aimed specifically at one political party, mostly because those articles are meant to divide. Often, they’re written with obvious (to me) bias by citizen journalists, who don’t have the public’s best interests in mind.

Big red flags for “fake news” are misspelled words, incorrect information and when the opinion of the writer is broadcast blatantly, a big no-no in journalism.

We live in a world where opinions are accepted as fact and facts are tossed out like old garbage.

But here’s the thing: Facts are facts. They don’t change based on who is reporting them. They don’t change based on an agenda or ideologies, whether you’re conservative or liberal or anywhere in between.

Sometimes, fake news is more difficult to discern because presenting some of the facts can paint a different picture than “all” of the facts. I’ve found recently (most notably with various protests), that if a certain fact doesn’t fit a person’s narrative, they tend to ignore that fact. It challenges their thinking. But that’s not a bad thing!

It’s important to read and consume both sides of an argument. It’s important to be respectful of others, even (and especially) if you don’t agree.

Gen. George Patton said “If everyone is thinking alike, then someone isn’t thinking.” I don’t think that could be closer to the truth.

In school and to a greater extent, on the job, real journalists are taught to report real news, to steer clear of biases and to ask the tough questions. It’s not getting easier to do those things, but we persist to fill the role of watchdogs of our society.

National Newspaper Week is a good week to evaluate your news consumption, your habits and tendencies in sharing, your willingness to think critically about both sides and who you can trust for real news (The Missourian).

It’s also a good week for me, as a journalist, to assure you that despite having biases (we all do), I will always do my best to report the whole truth, without omissions, the best that I know how.