Donald Trump Doesn’t Know What Fake News Is, You Might Not Either
Yesterday's verbal sparring match between Donald Trump and a CNN reporter reminded me that a lot of people have no concept of how news reporting works, especially Donald Trump.
Donald Trump was visibly agitated by CNN reporter Jim Acosta's annoying persistence during yesterday's press conference, when he said, "You are fake news." It was a reactionary statement that we could easily disregard as a "heat of the moment" thing, if he didn't later double down on it via Twitter, as he so often does.
Now let's set aside the fact that Trump was promoting fake news well before, but especially during, his presidential campaign. The only reason we're talking about this is because he's wrong about CNN in this case, as are a lot of his biggest supporters, who have become an echo chamber for even his most ridiculous statements. This is one of them.
The story in question, which understandably has Trump upset, was handled responsibly by CNN. Even if the allegations do turn out to be false -- their story wouldn't even require a retraction. Now, before you start calling me a libtard or a snowflake, let me make something clear -- I'm not writing this from an anti-Trump or pro-CNN viewpoint. I am writing this because I understand how journalism works, and realize that many people, the president-elect included, do not. Look, even Fox News knows what's up.
Do you know why he's right? It's because of a practice called "sourcing." Most times in journalism, reporters have to rely on second-hand information. That's why there are phrases like "according to (person or group)" or "(person or group) says" in every news article. If you cite the source of information properly, there should be no question about what is being reported, and who is saying it. Unfortunately, not everyone gets this concept.
CNN didn't say Trump peed on Russian hookers or whatever the ridiculous report is. They didn't even mention the details of the alleged incident anywhere in their story -- Buzzfeed did that. Here are the major points that their carefully- sourced story stated:
- There are documents detailing the unconfirmed allegations -- True
- The President and President-elect were briefed about this -- Also True
CNN didn't do anything wrong. They verified what they could through trusted sources, which is, perhaps, the most common practice in journalism. There's a huge difference between saying something definitely happened, and saying "person x said a report exists that claims this thing happened." They even wrote "CNN is not reporting on details of the memos, as it has not independently corroborated the specific allegations," for anyone willing to read something longer than a tweet.
I constantly have to explain this to people in comment sections who call me a liar because they think "(Person A) said (Event B) happened" means "Tree Riddle said (Event B) happened." That's not how this works. That's not how any of this works. It's all there in the English language for you, people. Learn what the words mean, both separately and when combined, and I promise the world will become a much less confusing place.
CNN might suck for a number of other reasons, but this instance isn't one of them. They reported the verifiable details of a breaking major news story about our future president. If that's not responsible enough journalism for you, have fun getting all your news from Trump's Twitter feed.