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'Fake news' label unlikely to fade away after Trump's departure

Posted January 13, 2021 8:13 p.m. EST
Updated January 14, 2021 8:52 a.m. EST

— President Donald Trump has declared the media "the enemy of the people," and the term “fake news” has been a hallmark of his time in the White House.

The label is unlikely to go away even after Trump leaves office, said Daniel Kreiss, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Hussman School of Journalism and Media.

“Politicians are capitalizing on the fact that Americans are much more partisan than they were 20, 30, 40 years ago, so de-legitimizing those independent voices that are working to hold you accountable is to a politician's gain,” Kreiss said.

The rise of cable TV, independent websites and social media have also blurred the lines between news and opinion during that time, he added.

Stephen Xavier, a conservative campaign strategist, said he’s lost trust in the media’s ability to be objective.

“It’s just more parroting. It’s more headlines, bumper-sticker quotes and burning through stuff without depth," Xavier said. "I think that’s what upsets a lot of intelligent people that want to know more [and] know the true story.”

"We are sick and tired of being told half-truths [and] total blatant lies," Person County resident Phillip Reams said. “Y’all ain’t doing your job. You need to get your head out of the sand.”

Reams said he remains convinced that Trump defeated Democratic challenger Joe Biden in the November election.

“All this stuff about being a fair election – hogwash," he said.

Both he and Xavier say fraud occurred in Georgia, despite investigations that found no evidence of it and the rejections of such claims from multiple courts.

“I want to see more evidence like that state by state, not just Georgia," Xavier said. "If nothing else, it created an air of suspicion that is leaving 70 [million] to 80 million people very angry and very upset.”

Although "fake news" might stick around, Kreiss said, journalism definitely will, remaining a key element of American democracy.

“I think last week was a deep wake-up call," he said of the riot at the U.S. Capitol that prompted Wednesday's vote to impeach Trump. "I hope we will see some new ways to come together to clearly reject these anti-democratic threats and to build a common life moving forward."

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