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Reason 5,641 that I'm no great fan of politics, at the very least as practiced today: The criticism is so familiar.

He's no Christian. Whose side is he on? He's a lawless president. Does he do anything but golf? Who dressed him? He spends more time campaigning than working for us. He's governing by executive order. He and his family are traveling lavishly on the taxpayers' dime. It's all about his ego.

Oh, you thought I was talking about the current occupant of the Oval Office?

If nothing else, the criticisms of Barack Obama and the current president prove that hyperpartisans are pretty hypocritical ... and unoriginal. While some barbs are well-deserved, it's more than a little annoying when a news outlet that was up in arms over one has no problem with the other, sparking cries of "fake news." It also shows that allowing the line between news and opinion to be so hazy on cable news outlets ill-serves the viewing public.

I'm not talking about columnists who do reported opinion/analysis, such as The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin, The New York Times' Bret Stephens, or our own John Brummett. Their work is clearly segregated to their respective opinion sections in print and online.

On cable news, the line is often all but obliterated, with pundits delivering "news" and news anchors pontificating. What began long ago with clearly labeled political roundtables featuring diverse opinions on broadcast networks has now become a mishmash of one-sided rage, misinformation and the occasional nod to news. You know, that thing news networks are supposed to be about. But then, how else are they going to fill the schedule 24/7/365?

Is it any wonder that so many have pulled the plug on cable (myself included)? Really, when watching the news, I'd prefer more real news than opinion and fake news ... meaning the made-up stuff, not whatever you disagree with.

So of course I sighed when I read about a Pew Research Center survey released last week that found that while those surveyed saw fake news as more of a problem than, say, terrorism or illegal immigration, "U.S. adults blame political leaders and activists far more than journalists for the creation of made-up news intended to mislead the public. But they believe it is primarily the responsibility of journalists to fix the problem. And they think the issue will get worse in the foreseeable future."

Fifty-three percent believed journalists bear the most responsibility in preventing the spread of fake news. So politicians and activists are the toddlers, and journalists are the moms expected to clean up everything? Really? I feel like I'm back teaching preschool Sunday School class that one summer.

What are journalists supposed to do for those people who get their news primarily through social media, where they only pay attention (often blindly) to the accounts they follow? Journalists commenting on some social media timelines to dispel falsities are usually exposed to abuse from the entrenched, who have been known to harass and cyber-stalk journalists and others who don't reside in their version of reality.

Ahhh ... I remember when there was one reality. I miss that time. And sanity. And non-recycled criticism. And ...

The Pew survey, which polled 6,127 U.S. adults between Feb. 19 and March 4, found that nearly seven in 10 "adults (68 percent) say made-up news and information greatly impacts Americans' confidence in government institutions, and roughly half (54 percent) say it is having a major impact on our confidence in each other."

Why, it's almost like they're saying that misinformation could divide us even further, like maybe seeing the other side as irredeemably evil might be a wee bit of an issue. And of course, that division along party lines was reflected in the survey as well, as Republicans were nearly three times as likely to blame journalists for made-up news as were Democrats. Because, you know, we're evil.

Heavy sigh. The heaviest.

There was a sliver of light in the dark of the Pew findings. While 52 percent admitted they had passed along fake news, the majority said they didn't know it was fake at the time. "Given their concerns about made-up news, Americans have also changed their news and technology habits. Almost eight in 10 (78 percent) say they have checked the facts in news stories themselves. Roughly six in 10 (63 percent) have stopped getting news from a particular outlet, about half (52 percent) have changed the way they use social media, and roughly four in 10 (43 percent) have lessened their overall news intake."

Well, that last bit concerns me a little bit, not least because one should consume news (the real stuff) from a wide variety of sources. But I guess if people are consuming quality over quantity, that's OK.

Especially if part of that quality is from your friendly local newspaper. Yeah, shameless plug, I know. Journalists have to pay bills, too.


Assistant Editor Brenda Looper is editor of the Voices page. Read her blog at Email her at [email protected]

Editorial on 06/12/2019

Print Headline: BRENDA LOOPER: Cleanup on aisle 1

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