2016 was the year of two significant political campaigns, accompanying the referendum on membership of the United Kingdom in the European Union and presidential election in the USA. A popular image of these both campaigns consists of many cases of twisting the truth by the winning parties. It was confirmed by announcing the terms ’fake news’ and ’post-truth’ as Words of the Year 2016. Both words were and are widely used by politicians, journalists and voters. This article is an attempt to prove if these both new words actually mean new phenomena in journalism.
The article begins with listing six mutually correlated features of journalistic messages. They are: based on facts which could be verified, current, understandable, attractive, connected to the common good of the anticipated receivers, and to a certain level independent of political and economic powers. Besides, journalistic messages can be divided into news, assessments, interpretations and opinions.
Fake news is made-up stuff, masterfully manipulated to look like credible journalistic reports that are easily spread online to large audiences willing to believe the fictions and spread the word. Invented news is known for years, but thanks to the Internet it can be rapidly and widely disseminated.
Post-truth is an adjective relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. Especially assessments, interpretations and opinions cannot be justified only by facts. The same facts may provide a basis for diverse assessments, interpretations and opinions, though their level of reliability will be different. The receiver may verify the accuracy of reasoning and may compare these messages with his or her own knowledge and beliefs. As a result, the receiver can accept the offered assessments, interpretations and opinions, can accept them partially or reject.
New words do not necessarily denote new things or phenomena, but they give them new specific coloration. This is the case of two words mentioned in the title of this article. It is the receiver’s experience which helps him to decide that the journalistic message is or is not invented (fake news) or unimportant (post-truth).
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