Ziel: There is no such thing as ‘fake news’

Renee Ziel

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

Over the past few years, journalism has suffered the scrutiny of many people nationwide. This was largely launched by Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign in which he often criticized, and continues to criticize, the modern press by shouting “fake news” whenever possible.


The problem with the outcry of fake news is that the statement is seldom true. The first factor in what some people deem “fake news” is what it arguably starts with: the bad journalists behind it.

According to the Society of Professional Journalists’ Code of Ethics, journalists are to seek truth and report it, minimize harm such as libel, act independently such as having no conflicts of interest and be accountable and transparent.

Historically, there have been cases of journalists violating these ethics even at The Collegian, though rare. On a national level, BuzzFeed and FOX News are just some of the publications notorious for being biased toward one political viewpoint, skewing their reporting to further their political agenda.

These days, it’s easy for people to claim to be part of a profession, such as journalism, when they haven’t actually been professionally involved. Worse, they can claim to be a member of a profession even when they don’t adhere to the key principles that make up that field. This is particularly true for writers and, specifically, journalists.


When a journalist adheres to the ethics codes and does their job well, it’s then the responsibility of the reader to fact check news they think may be false or biased. Today, people are less likely to fact check for themselves, which is where the cry of “fake news” comes from.

When reading about news, specifically politics, people tend to lose their individuality in their thinking. This is where herd mentality, described by the Oxford Dictionary as “the tendency for people’s behaviour or beliefs to conform to those of the group to which they belong,” comes in.

When people start consuming media as a “herd” rather than as an individual, it also becomes easier for bad journalists, companies and their public relations teams, politicians and others to manipulate large numbers of people with non-factual and biased publications. 

What’s worse, many poor readers will read a news piece they disagree with and claim it’s fake news. One such instance in our own community was when multiple copies of The Collegian were thrown out because someone disagreed with the reporting. Another ongoing example is President Trump when he doesn’t agree with a media organization that portrays him more negatively than he wants.

As journalists, it’s important not only to hold ourselves accountable, but to hold our peers and those in power accountable as well. As readers, we need to learn to think for ourselves and be more skeptical of what we see.

When we don’t, it’s easy to let the actual false reports and statements to pass us by. Being involved journalists and readers will make for a better world and encourage more innovative thought.


Renee Ziel can be reached at letters@collegian.com or online at @reneezwrites.