“Fake News” is a very real thing. It is the publication of hoaxes, propaganda, and disinformation purporting to be real news with the deliberate intent to mislead. Many fake news websites originate from Russia, Macedonia, and Romania.
What it is NOT is an editorial from a respected, established newspaper entitled “Better open records”, which supports a bill to give journalists better access to government records.
The Daily Sentinel, which is the local newspaper for Grand Junction, CO, urged moving forward with the bill and called on State Senator Ray Scott to quit delaying the bill and bring it up for a vote. Their exact words were: “We call on our own Sen. Scott to announce a new committee hearing date and move this bill forward.”
This is how Ray Scott responded:
On Twitter, he said:
We have our own fake news in Grand Junction...
On Facebook, he said:
The very liberal GJ Sentinel is attempting to apply pressure for me to move a bill. They have no facts, as usual, and tried to call me out on SB 40 know as the CORA bill. They haven't contacted me to get any information on why the bill has been delayed but choose to run a fake news story demanding I run the bill.
Jay Seaton, the Sentinel’s publisher, isn’t having any of it.
We are seeing a trend, not just here in Colorado, but that politicians for a variety of reasons have taken to calling very legitimate media entities — whether it be The New York Times, The Washington Post or CNN — fake news...t's intended to delegitimize those sources for news.
Seaton is correct. He is also correct that this smear, which is only used by republicans, constitutes defamation. Seaton said he is going to take his time and decide whether to sue within the next couple of weeks, but I hope he goes forward with it.
If he does, it would set a legal definition of what is considered fake news and what is not. I think a line in the sand has to be drawn. When I write about specific people, I am very careful what I say. I reference everything and make sure my quotes are accurate. I know that if I am not careful, I would get a libel lawsuit. I don’t consider this an abridgement against my First Amendment rights--I can't just make up something about somebody. I have an obligation to be accurate.
I think the same principle applies here. You can’t smear a publication with a clearly-defined label of "Fake News" just because you don't like what they say about you. If politicians can get away with undermining legitimate publications, we won’t have a press for the First Amendment to protect.