Many of us likely remember what it was like as we waited in the checkout lane at the local grocery store when we were younger. It took forever. We remember that never-ending line, and we know its truth.
Speaking of the truth, that also was the first time most of us saw those crazy, oddly shaped, newspapers right next to all of the good candy and gum. Their headlines were fantastic and as soon as we mentioned we should get one, we'd be told that none of it was real. "That's fake news," Mom would say.
Then we'd go to school and be taught the history of country at war. World War II was always so hard to understand because there is no way a nation would do things that were that evil. How could so many people be talked into thinking that was okay?
Teachers explained how it happened using one word, "propaganda." What's that? "It's fake news," we'd be told in class. "Citizens were told things that weren't true, that--because of the times and their own hardships--they wanted to believe." Seemed like crazy talk to us back in the fifth grade.
For most people of a certain age, these are the first examples we remember of being told that something less than honest was being sold as the truth. This is when most of us began to understand what "fake news" really was. Today, we hear the phrase all the time, but it's oddly been turned into something that seems charged and political, whether what is being reported is factual or not.
As the Spokesman-Review editor, I get asked to speak to a lot of groups. There is always one question asked at every presentation: "How do you feel about fake news?" That's easy: I hate it. It goes against everything our newspaper's journalists believe in and everything our newsroom stands for. "No, that's not what I mean. What do you think about there being so much fake news now?" This is when I get to explain what local newspapers really do and what we all know are truthful things.
When we print a story about a road closing on Monday for construction, that's true. When we say the previous day's high temperature was 22 degrees and that it snowed 2.7 inches out at the airport, we all know it's true ... even if we don't want either to be true. If we run a story that says Gonzaga scored more than 100 points and beat Santa Clara by 50 points, we know that's true.
People generally like this answer. More importantly, they agree with it. Then ... "Well, what about what the president said and about the media being fake?"
There's a long...