Let’s Cool It On the “Fake News” Irony

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Over at National Review, James Sherk has a complaint:

President-elect Trump has picked Andy Puzder, the CEO of CKE Restaurants (i.e. Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s) for labor secretary. Amusingly, the media coverage of his nomination has been dominated by . . . fake news. Several outlets have reported that Puzder opposes increasing the minimum wage. That’s not exactly true.

Forget the Puzder stuff. His view on the minimum wage is a little hard to pin down. My objection is to the overuse of “fake news.” There are two things that can qualify:

  • Stuff that’s literally made up and passed off as real. The most famous example is here.
  • Wild conspiracy theories passed around on Facebook pages and crank websites.

“Fake news” is a useful concept, but not if we start using it to refer to anything we think is wrong or biased or not fully reported. We already have good words for this kind of stuff, ranging from “not the whole story” to “outright lie.” We don’t need to ruin a perfectly good phrase by using it where it really doesn’t fit.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest