What do you have to do to win one of those "fake news" awards anyway?


Congratulations to Paul Krugman for taking first place in the Trump "Fake News" awards. Krugman's prediction that the stock market would never recover from a Trump presidency was floated in a short op-ed column for The New York Times written on the night of the 2016 election. It was a prediction published as opinion, so strictly speaking not news at all, "fake" or otherwise. I suppose pointing this out would be quibbling. It might even be "fake news."

Three days later Krugman publicly retracted the prediction, noting that "like everyone who cares" he was "frazzled, sleepless, depressed" (The Long Haul). That on election night he wrote in precipitous haste, as Samuel Johnson put it, is understandable given the circumstances.

As has been pointed out elsewhere, most of the other awards went to reporters and organizations for stories where errors were made and subsequently corrected in accordance with ethical guidelines and standard policies and procedures of the respective institutions.

Sloppy journalism should be called out and criticized, but there is a difference between fake news and honest mistakes. The distinction is not always clear-cut, and there may be disagreement between people of good will in specific instances. What we look for is the willingness of individuals and institutions to acknowledge and correct their mistakes.

My disappointment grew as I read the list of award winners and found my name conspicuous by its absence. Maybe I made a "dishonorable" mention list that went unpublished. Surely the two pieces about Trump as tyrant, one an outright rant, would qualify even if somehow nothing else did in a year devoted to raking the president and his administration over the coals for dang near everything, from government by tweet to the crash and burn of "repeal and replace," the embrace of white supremacists after Charlottesville, the routine distortions and dissimulations that are standard operating procedure for this White House, "taking a knee," and much else. Ah, well, in the tradition of Samuel Beckett, ever tried, ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. Alas, 2018 figures to offer ample occasion for it.

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David Matthews

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