Journalism has earned itself another distinction with a remarkable difference, one that is nothing to feel elated about. In an era when journalism, indeed the media, is perhaps facing one of its worst crises, another notable ignominy in the list of infamy of this so-called noble profession is that fake news – described as false, often sensational, information disseminated under the guise of news reporting -- has entered the Collins Dictionary as the word of the year.
Such has been the spread of make-believe news that its word’s usage increased 365 per cent since 2016 making it impossible for Collins to keep it out of dictionary. The tendency of not letting facts come in the way of a good story opens the door to the world of fake news. Fact and fiction cannot be co-runners in a race, but the tracks blur when they compete with each other. The result of this mix-up is labels like presstitutes that are often used to describe scribes and news reporters, particularly in India. Like the world, this country too is in the middle of the fake news revolution.
Digital platforms have become the medium of super quick dissemination of information in a world, which is not bothered about cross checking facts. The outcome is a volcanic explosion of propaganda pedaled as news. If fake news has become a phenomenon so are fake news busters. Fake news has given rise to a parallel fact-check industry. It has not only shattered the halo (if any) around journalism, but has also, indeed, posed a threat to democratic societies. Opponents are willing to go to any extent to paint each other in ideological colours in a manner that goes far beyond marketing-like campaigns. The context behind the text has got lost as patently wrong text justifies the false context. What is fired never returns and by the time the impact of fake news is undone, the intended damage is caused.
By making it part of dictionary, fake news is now firmly entrenched as an accepted phenomenon rather than an aberration. It is here to stay as the cutthroat competition is now literally cutting throats. US President Donald Trump is the self-professed owner of exposing fake news.
Last month, he admitted that it was one of the greatest of all terms he had come up with. But even during his poll campaign days in the US, propaganda was served as real news. It has only gone murkier since then. Its like a container without a bottom and will consume whatever is served. One way or the other, the world, it seems, will have to learn to live with it.