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Fake news, hacking and Trump Tweets: who can you trust

by Peter Weinberger

If news from this week is any indication, the general public will develop a real thirst for accurate reporting. Most people think the news media is already biased, but so far in 2017 we continue to see fake news making a real impact on everyone, from the general public to the president-elect.

It started earlier this week with Meryl Streep using her time on the Golden Globes stage to bash the president-elect without even saying his name. Her speech addressed the story of when the president-elect mocked a disabled reporter from the New York Times during his campaign. Mr. Trump then reached out on Twitter where he bashed the actress, calling her “over-rated.” Clearly his denial at the mocking incident will leave the issue unresolved. But the facts don’t support Mr. Trump’s explanation. So what else is new?

And does anyone really know what exactly the Russians have been hacking? I get the feeling our government kinda sorta does. It’s hard to tell, since the public gets only snippets of information on what’s happening. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump even acknowledged Russia was responsible for hacking Democratic National Committee servers, but only after he heard intelligence that put him in the hot seat.

Fake news has been around since journalism began. Hidden in other forms like “yellow journalism” or “tabloid news,” fake news continues to create serious issues that impact countries all over the world.

That’s why Facebook just launched a new initiative, “Facebook Journalism Project,” to help ensure the accuracy of news feeds. Maybe now they will hire real people as editors instead of relying on algorithms to make story judgments. No wonder their new motto is “news you can trust.” Sounds like a marketing slogan for a newspaper or Eyewitness News television in 1981.

My point is the role of the press to sort out life’s events has never been so important. Some people will accuse the New York Times or Washington Post of having a liberal agenda. This is a topic worthy of discussion during any political season. But how many editors do you think are vetting Times stories about president-elect Trump? I can assure you, it’s more than you think.

Sometimes the best news judgment is not to publish at all, a lesson learned by Buzzfeed with the posting of unsubstantiated news on supposed compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump. All this dug up by you know who…our Russian friends.

The result was the president-elect had to defend himself during his first-ever press conference on Wednesday. “I think it’s a disgrace that information would be let out. It’s all fake news, it’s phony stuff, it didn’t happen,” he said.

I’m just glad he has such high standards for accuracy.

The good news was Mr. Trump actually complimented the news organizations that elected not to go with a story. This includes the much-vilified New York Times, for whom his respect “went up a notch.”

The need for accuracy isn’t just for world events with international intrigue and spying. Claremont will have eight candidates going for two spots on our city council in March. How will you find unbiased, factual information about each candidate? And we’ve been involved in a lengthy, and costly, trial over the water system. Does it matter to you the source of the information?

As publisher, I hope your answer will be the Claremont COURIER. We take our role very seriously in providing information so our readers can make educated decisions about their local government. It may seem like small potatoes compared to a Donald Trump tweet, but our staff has developed a state-of-the-art method making it impossible to hack our stories. It’s called the Claremont COURIER print edition.

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