Appetites are consistent. We fill our carts with the same things at the grocery store and order the same food from the restaurant menu most of the time. If we like chocolate today, we will most likely desire it when the sun comes up tomorrow. Most of us know what food we like, and we do not change much unless we have a kicking motivation to lose weight, add muscle or fight a disease like diabetes or celiac. Eating preferences can be changed if diets are manipulated and steadfastly followed. This constancy and ability to adapt also applies to our recurring appetites for politics and how we consume news and information
As we grow from infant to old, we become more complex and more sophisticated with our likes and dislikes even if we become more tolerable and patient. There was a time I did not like rare red meat or stinky blue cheese. Now, I really appreciate both. As we mature, we start to view the world from a place of experience, and more often than not we are in consensus with those around us that that we know and trust. Preferences of children most often follow in the footsteps of their parents for obvious reasons. In nature, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. Without some convincing inspiration or force, old habits die hard. This may all be obvious, but in the age of the internet and social media, this analysis helps us consider our social and political priorities, how our views are shaped, and how much we care.
Pew Research Center released a survey this week identifying that Americans view made-up news and information as a bigger problem than terrorism, immigration, climate change and racism. The only issues that rank higher are drug addiction, the cost of health care, the U.S. political system and the income gap. According to this survey, a majority also believe the fake news problem will get worse over time. Whether there really is more or less fake news, the perceived problem is real.
There is limitless information around us that gets dangled as bait every day to please our ideological senses. Entire media enterprises cater to and profit from pandering to our innermost appetites to help us understand, deliberate and participate in the world around us. CNN is something vastly different than Fox News. The New York times is very different than the New York Post. Each influencing organization is on a mission with differentiating journalistic bends. Sometimes it is difficult to separate objective journalism from subjective activism. While President Donald Trump has made “fake news” a slogan, there is ample reason for the American public to be suspicious but responsible in its analysis of a problem it considers important.
Every news outlet and journalist is at risk of being called “fake” these days. Fake means a failure to adequately consider the whole context of a story, the background and the intent of its participants. Like the taste of food, fake is in the eye of the beholder. If journalistic integrity and intellectual honesty is at the forefront, most Americans will not be head faked into believing a story is untrue. But the brand behind the journalist matters. Just like the brand behind the policy statement matters. Trumpism is the brand behind republicanism, for now. When the next president is in the Oval Office, there is a good chance Republicans will still exist and so will the Washington Post.
Journalists also have an opportunity to embrace the charge of fake news as an opportunity to be better in a world that demands it. A comparison can be made to how law enforcement responded to the last decade of attacks on its treatment of citizens. For the most part, many local law enforcement agencies have taken the charge and chosen to become better. They have initiated new priorities to be more involved in the communities and have embraced the same technology that exposed them by making silly viral YouTube videos and sharing more of their daily routine on Twitter and Facebook. This helps expose more of their human characteristics so we can relate and better understand their difficult work and daily decision-making. Some journalists are doing the same. Like police work, journalism should be unbiased and verified. We should know and understand the person behind the badge and the story.
The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, ambassador, senator and adviser to four presidents who was an ardent Democrat and worked with and for Republicans, is credited with saying “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.” This entitlement and responsibility applies to journalists, to presidents and to us. I know Idaho has the best beef and potatoes. None of us should be fooled whether this is fact or opinion in a world of red meat and blue cheese.
Dustin Manwaring is a business and estate planning attorney in Pocatello and served in the Idaho Legislature from 2016-2018.