Column: The Age of Fake News and Alternative Facts

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“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter — Thomas Jefferson, 1787”

As we at SFGN proudly celebrate our 8th Anniversary others think that reading and supporting a newspaper is a thing of the past. Gov. Sarah Palin in 2008 made it clear that she did not read newspapers. Why should she? She can get all the news she needs from Tweety Bird. Not to be undone President Trumputin has repeatedly called the press "thieves and crooks." He has referred to the New York Times as: “failing-sick-a disgusting fraud- a joke – dishonest - unfair and biased” among other things. But in his manic schizophrenic way the only thing worse than negative coverage in The Times is not being covered at all.

Many have been predicting the end of this format for years. The irreplaceable role of newspapers, to dissect, stimulate, expose, organize and analyze the public debate, is threatened by a free for all chaos led by social media's anarchic way of spreading information without any editorial revision process. They are platforms & pulpits for personal propaganda & agendas without any concern about what is true or not. 

Some of the largest websites are aggregate news sites, meaning they simply pull news from other sources. Newspapers all over the world are suffering, or closing, and reporters are dwindling through downsizing. Who will dig up corruption, white-collar crimes, exploitation, abuse of minorities, collusion, lies, political scandals, obstruction of justice and big business cover-ups when there are no more reporters? 

This past year alone more than 81 reporters have been killed worldwide while bearing witness to unfolding events, violence and harassment against media workers has skyrocketed. Many fear for their lives.

And now the term Fake News has become a global subject. It was widely introduced to billions during the 2016 U.S. presidential election. As many as 126 million Facebook users saw divisive, misleading and untrue content posted by the Russians seeking to interfere with the 2016 elections. 

Numerous political commentators and journalists wrote and stated in the media that 2016 was the year of fake news and as a result nothing will ever be the same in politics and cyber security. Governmental bodies in the U.S. and Europe have begun looking at contingencies and regulations to combat fake news especially when part of a coordinated intelligence campaign by hostile foreign governments. 

Online tech giant Google started putting in place means to combat fake news as a result of the phenomenon becoming globally known. Facebook has been experimenting with a fact-checking function to keep its news feed honest, but these efforts feel lukewarm and condescending. The truth is that the fuel that powers a healthy democracy — is increasingly endangered. 

Since the early days of his presidency, President Trump has appropriated the term "fake news" to refer to traditional news media, singling out CNN,  (and leaving out Foxymoron News),  but what it boils down to is that President Trump childishly uses the term “fake news” to describe any news, however legitimate or responsible, with which he may disagree or take offense to. 

Sadly when you throw enough crap on the wall some will stick as his ramblings stick to his core followers like shit on Velcro.

At SFGN we are trying to prove that it’s still doable in a credible and honest way. Thanks to our publisher Norm Kent and Executive Editor Jason Parsley, we have featured international, national and local news, the crystal meth epidemic, cutting-edge editorial content, breaking stories, police harassment, exposed crooks, con-men & swindlers who hurt members of our community, and we made you part of all this by allowing your comments to be read by all as if it was an open forum. Yes, today we are giving ourselves a little pat on the back, seems self-serving but it feels right.

In closing, as the CEO of this great paper, I want to seize the moment to express my gratitude to all of our loyal readers, advertisers, and of course our dedicated staff, led by our sales manager Justin Wyse, for allowing us to be the voice of this beautiful and colorful community's ongoing story.  

In these complicated times, truth matters, journalism matters and your vital support matters, you are an inspiration, you give us purpose and much appreciated emails of praise like the one that follows, left on our web site a year ago by our reader A-Jay, thank you!  Grazie!

"I stopped by the SFGN office to wish the staff well and thank Norm, Piero, and the gang personally for keeping an historical tradition alive in a very diverse community. While the AGENDA is no longer with us as are memorable other wonderful publications like David, TWN, Scoop, The Fountain, etc. hope springs eternal. Today's SFGN staffers are the foundation of an enduring frontier of spirited individuals that keep our media flame alive regardless of the ups and downs and the favorable likes and harsh dislikes that we read and hear about over the course of the year. Congratulations SFGN on your lucky 7th year and many-many-many more to come.”


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