image woman reading fake news

As a child of the fifties, growing up in a Britain that was still recovering from World War II, there was always one constant you could rely on, the news from the BBC. It was the most accurate and impartial source of the news and was delivered to us via the radio at regular intervals. When my father and mother bought a black and white TV, all we ever watched, for a very few hours a week, was the BBC and the mainstay of that would be the news. In those days, news was news, and you could lay bets that the BBC’s reporting was impartial and accurate. That remains mostly true today. But take a trip across the Atlantic and you will discover a news offering of a different kind.

My earliest memories of experiencing American news was during the tenure of US President Richard Nixon. Inaugurated on 20th January 1969 I first became aware of Nixon during the Apollo 11 moon landing six months later on 20th July 1969. Those were exciting times to an impressionable 14 year old teenager, but just over five years later and the shine had worn off Nixon’s presidency and he was gone. Nixon resigned before he could be kicked out of office. The scandal of Watergate loomed high in the news and we all took notice of the way America’s media handled the situation. As with the BBC, there was no slant put on the news, no comments of a political nature.

Fast-forward and in America today you have a lot of news outlets and in particular cable news channels such as MSNBC. The Trump presidency hit the ground running in its ability to create disturbing newsworthy stories, like the Muslim ban, the detention of children, the arrest and conviction of Trump aides and even a new saying related to the news, the so-called Fake News.

By and far the news related to Trump has been blasted across the airwaves in an ever more speedier and volatile fashion, to the extent that American news outlets are forming opinions about Trump’s presidency and openly expressing that opinion on-air. These news outlets no longer report the news, they form an opinion about the news and they then impart their opinion to their viewers. This has meant some stories being aired, on the face of them, are shocking and newsworthy, only to be found to be hearsay and maybe not even true. One such news cycle was touted initially by Lawrence O’ Donnell of MSNBC in which he reported that he had been told, by a source, that some of Trump’s bank loans from a major bank had been co-signed by Russian Oligarchs as guarantors. The shit literally hit the fan and the news spread like wildfire. Except it wasn’t news and may not have actually been true. I, like many others, was taken in by this revelation. In only a few hours of the story being told on MSNBC, it was retracted by O’ Donnell and he apologised for releasing it before the information had been verified.

The MSNBC story became newsworthy because it was about a man who has spent his entire presidency, even going to court, to cover up his financial history. If this fake news had been about anyone else it would probably have never seen the light of day. But because it was about Trump it was touted as gospel and found to be wanting.

As a footnote, I cannot find any reference to this MSNBC story anywhere on the BBC’s news website. In a world where trust and honesty seem to be in short supply, in future I for one will only be paying attention to one news channel, the good old BBC. I’ll still watch MSNBC, but only for the entertainment value of their presenters.

Copyright © Tom Kane 2019

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