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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: March 8, 2017

Fake News

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,

"Fake news" has a lot of definitions, depending on who is talking about it. Some people seem to think fake news is anything that they don't agree with.

My concern with this topic is that I am, by training, a journalist. I am a proud graduate of UW-Oshkosh, class of 1978, with a B.S. degree in journalism. I did not spend my work career in the field, but I used the skill set I got in in college in my professional career all the time, since communication skills are necessary to succeed in almost any line of work. (Unless you work without any need at all to relate to customers, supervisors, co-workers, or anyone else for that matter.)

My bias, therefore, is strongly in support of the legitimate news media. I know a free press is one of the most fundamental, essential foundations of a healthy society. That's why it was enshrined as a first amendment to the constitution, and can be paraphrased as "the government shall not control the press." Our founding fathers were wise enough to know that without the general public having access to unfiltered information about the activities of their elected officials, it would be impossible to hold them accountable. (Given the times, there were no formal "founding mothers" drafting the constitution. Thank goodness times have started to change, and "and still she persisted," a man's rebuke of a female legislator, may be the slogan remembered for the surge of women in elected positions I hope to see in my lifetime. Women comprise about 51% of the population, there is no good reason for the dearth of women in elected positions. Right now, women hold less than 20% of the congressional seats in the United States with similar numbers present at all other levels of elected officials. Peshtigo represents progress for having a female mayor!)

And that's also why in countries where freedoms are strictly controlled by the government, there is usually no free press; rather a state-controlled official media, with prosecution and imprisonment of non-conforming writers.

I have, however, a list of things that I consider fake news that have no relationship to politics, so take a deep breath and join me in the considering news items that make my personal list of fake news. Maybe we start this emotional topic with some points where probably most of us would agree represent fake news.

" Anything to do with anyone named "Kardashian." I don't know a lot about this topic, but apparently millions are interested, judging by the amount of time I hear something about them. What I do know makes it seem to me that we would be better off if they were ignored by all of us.

" Anything at all in the "National Enquirer." I have to admit I like to look at the cover while standing in checkout lines at "major retailer" known for slow checkout lines. Space Aliens! Shocking extramarital affair! Baby born with two heads and a credit card!

" News about a revolutionary diet pill will help you shed pounds with NO exercise while eating anything you like!

" Bigfoot found!

Thinking of how critically important news media are to an informed electorate, I ask you to consider not only large, mainstream media such as major television channels and newspapers of nation-wide interest, such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, but also the critical role played by smaller media sources such as local radio, TV and newspapers. You won't see concerns aired about budget overruns in Marinette County townships or villages in national outlets, but you can find out about it in local media. "Think global, act local," is an important concept. If you are not informed about the activities of local government officials, it is hard to know if you understand or agree with their actions. And again, elected officials work for YOU. It's hard for you to hold them accountable if you have no idea what they are doing. And without local media, like the Peshtigo Times and other local news sources, you wouldn't know, unless you were free to attend all of their meetings. Sure " meeting notes may be published on a web site " but the notes were generated by someone who is part of the process, and that is not necessarily going to be fair and objective reporting.

A few of the hints that can tell you what is, or is not, fake news:

" Fake news - there are no supporting facts " numbers, names, dates, or other evidence, that the news item is true.

" Fake news - other mainstream media do not pick up the story, adding in additional facts not in the first news story printed. (Additional facts must come from additional media sources, not the original one.)

" Real news - the media source you use fairly presents rebuttal or commentary from opposing voices on a regular basis. The opposing voices are treated respectfully and professionally in interviews.

" Real news - the media sources (reporters, moderators, commentators) do not rant and rave. If the media representative is ranting and raving, I don't believe a word they say. They aren't professional journalists, period.

" Real news - the most important one " a responsible mainstream media promptly publishes corrections and apologizes for errors. This is probably the very best indicator of a dependable news source. Everyone makes errors. Responsible journalists and media sources take responsibility for them.

Fake news is a serious problem. A free and unconstrained press is the friend of the electorate, not the elected officials. The mainstream media in a free society like ours is not the enemy. Treasure the media, and the first amendment.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.


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