I've had three essential careers in my lifetime -- journalist, police officer and attorney -- and in the latter serving as a prosecutor and judge so it's of no small consequence that I am piqued by the allegations of so-called "fake news."
What is is? Where is it? Who does it?
The best definition of what came from a Canadian journalism professor who says it's basically intentionally reporting a false story; in other words, a lie. Something the writer knew wasn't said or didn't happen.
I've been in scores of newsrooms and I simply never, ever saw a "fake news" desk or department. It wasn't there when I worked for Hearst Corporation. Or Storer Broadcasting. Or at ABC. Never saw it when I was co-chair of the NBC affiliate news managers. Or at the UPI national broadcast desk in Chicago or the AP's in Washington, D.C., or at any other wire service bureau. Never saw it at any newspaper or at the Atlanta headquarters of CNN where several friends worked. Or at CBS, for that matter. Or in Ottawa.
I might have come close to reporting fake news a couple of times. Once I reported a name on the casualty list of an airliner that crashed only to hear from the "victim" that she had in face given her ticket to someone else. Then I reported on a young man's reported drowning in Lake Michigan, an event that the medical examiner hadn't heard of later that day. Turns out the police thought he drowned in an outing with his family but he was revived in the ambulance. I guess it's not evil to be wrong when you can have the Lazarus effect.
Now I once told Ted Turner that I didn't think anyone would want to watch a 24 hour cable news channel. That was opinion, not news. And obviously I got that one wrong.
So, none of the news organizations I had any part of or contact with did anything but encourage reporting the truth as we saw it. That doesn't mean people always liked what was reported.
I'm sure President Carter wasn't thrilled when I reported on the conditions Cuban "boat people" encountered at Fort McCoy in Monroe County, especially when county authorities refused to send children who escaped back there. Or when one of the Cubans murdered a local woman. Ronald Reagan laughed it off when I asked him if he was too old to serve as president as did Jerry Ford when I inquired if he might have played too much football without a helmet. President Reagan certainly didn't like many of the reports ABC colleague Sam Donaldson filed but he never accused him of "fake news." The Carter administration must have been miffed with the reports that I and Madison college Wayne Maloney did on its efforts to suppress publication of a magazine article on the hydrogen bomb. The then-conservative Chicago Tribune got it, publishing the article that a federal court barred The Progressive from printing. The Trip understood what the First Amendment means and told the White House to "bring it on." The feds backed down.
Not liking a story doesn't make it fake. The problem today is too many news outlets have forgotten what their mission in society is and have backed away from the traditional role of being part of the "checks and balances" on our government. Anemic content, reduced and poorly trained staffs and an inability and/or unwillingness to serve in that "watchdog" capacity is the perfect storm for corruption. And what does a corrupt person usually do when called out? Accuse the accuser, of course.
I'm sure "fake news" exists somewhere. I've seen some. Just not where the corrupt say it is.