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Fake news—it’s not a term The Donald invented. According to a dictionary reference cited by the Huffington Post, the term fake news became popular late in the 19th century—which is not exactly a shock. That was a time of yellow journalism, of sensationalism in the news media, and some writers then decried the trend and hoped the public would grow weary of the hype—of the false narratives, of the fake news.
The Telegraph, a national newspaper in Great Britain, posted an interesting analysis of the roots of the term fake news and its use by Donald Trump. I’m exploring the term “fake news,” its modern use and origins, as part of a presentation I’ll do in early September at Mount Mercy University. This year’s Fall Faculty Series is about our current era of divided politics. Entitled “Divided We Fall: Finding Common Ground in a Fractured Age,” the whole series seems suddenly more relevant.
The idea of a fall series itself is relatively young—the first one took place in fall 2014 and covered the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. Since then, each fall the faculty at MMU has presented a series of public lectures by MMU professors and guest speakers on various big topics. We covered the legacy of the Vietnam War in 2015 and the debate over immigration in 2016.
I coordinated those first three series. Now, the series is under the leadership of Dr. Joy Ochs, professor of English and immediate past chair of the faculty. So this year, I get to watch rather than getting caught up in all of the details of putting on the series. That’s good news, not fake news, to me
On Sept. 7, I am taking on the topic “Fake News and the Free Press,” a rumination that will cover the president’s use of that pejorative term vs the traditional role of the press as a vital part of our democracy.
I am looking forward to this fall’s faculty series. I hope you’ll come hear me try to illuminate and explore the idea of fake news and what it means, and that you’ll also come to our many other speakers. We’re covering important topics that need to be talked about in our country now.