‘Fake news’ depends on point of view

Published 6:02 pm Wednesday, April 25, 2018

This is about fake news.

The term “fake news” has been coined by the present administration in Washington as any stories or columns that make them look bad.

Actually the whole phenomenon is not new. Fake news is no more than a variation of the old politician’s complaint that the press is not treating them right. The last time such complaining reached mega proportions was in the Watergate scandal during the Nixon Administration.

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If I may borrow from Dan Rather’s book, “The Camera Never Blinks,” politicians have an unusual spelling of fair and an unusual definition of the word. They spell fair f-a-v-o-r-a-b-l-e. The definition is “if it’s not favorable to me, it’s not fair.” All the new administration did is take the traditional politician’s spelling of fair and change the definition to “if it’s not favorable to me, it’s fake news.” It’s all just a matter of using alternative facts.

The complaint that the media is not being fair to some politician or government agency has been going on since time began, and I’m sure Benjamin Harris and his publication, “Publick Occurances, Both Foreign and Domestick,” the first newspaper published in the colonies, had his share of complaints. One complainant was the colonial governor of Massachusetts, who quickly quashed the paper. I’m also sure the Hartford, Connecticut, Courant, which is one of the oldest continuously published newspapers in the U.S., also had its share of complaining politicians and public officials.

As a reporter I’ve also received my share of complaints from people, including one Louisiana politician who told me, “Your article didn’t make me look good.” I have faced the litany of politicians whining and crying about how I gave an opponent more space than the other. When I worked in Cullman County in north Alabama, I had the local campaign manager for a gubernatorial candidate complain that we gave the incumbent governor, who was from Cullman County, more play than his candidate. It was a matter of news. When the governor of the state shows up in your area, it’s news.

In Meridian, I had a lady call a state senatorial candidate everything but a Christian after his announcement hit the paper. She accused him of smuggling drugs, which the local Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics unit commander said was false.

I’ve also been accused of being biased. With a column? Guilty. Straight news, never, and I’m too old a bayou Bengal to worry about being called names.

But the pure fact is that as long as we have politicians, political races and government bureaucracies, the media will continue to report their activities, take them to task for their actions, and be called out for being unfair or biased, depending on the individual’s political leanings.

It reminds me of the book “Just Takin Orders” by Clyde Vidrine, a one-time friend and aide to former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, who wrote a “tell-all” book. Edwards’ friends called it garbage and lies. Edwards’ enemies said Clyde didn’t go far enough.

John Surratt is a staff writer for The Vicksburg Post. You may reach him at john.surratt@vicksburgpost.com

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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