Think it’s all “fake news”? Try living without it

By Caitlin Kelly


American journalists are now in a defensive crouch, thanks to a President who attacks us, our work, our ethics and our intent every single day.

I’ve been working as a journalist for more than 30 years, published in The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Irish Times, VSD, The New Zealand Herald, Sunday Telegraph and dozens of magazines.

I was a staff reporter at the Globe & Mail, Montreal Gazette and New York Daily News.

I love what I do and I’m proud of (most of!) our work.


I’m sick of hearing my industry and my colleagues maligned!


From The New York Times, (to which I contribute freelance):

Yet there he was in Phoenix on Tuesday, telling a crowd of thousands of ardent supporters that journalists were “sick people” who he believes “don’t like our country,” and are “trying to take away our history and our heritage.”


Let’s review:

Most journalists make little money. Some, like the late Kim Wall, have attended some of the most rigorous colleges and universities to learn our craft. While a corporate attorney fresh from law school might expect to make $150,000 to start — and millions if they work as a lobbyist or make partner at a major firm — only the highest-paid journalists, (those in television, a few columnists), will ever become wealthy through our work, regardless of skill, talent, experience or awards.

Unlike people who get up every day driven by profit and money (hello, billionaires), we do this work because it matters to us and to our audience.

Our work is team-oriented, not all about Big Stars who preen and strut and insist on our constant fawning and genuflection. There are some in this stratosphere, but everything you read, hear and see is the result of intense and focused teamwork, egos be damned. Yes, we make mistakes, but not for lack of effort — my Times stories are read and reviewed by three editors, each of whom can grill me for further detail.

— Journalists who lie and make shit up are quickly found out, shamed and fired. In a private business, people can (and do) get away with many forms of chicanery, unnoticed. CEOs of public companies make out financially for years like bandits regardless of their personal ethics.

— We don’t have to carry or show a press pass to do our jobs. We don’t have to pledge allegiance to anyone, a fact that makes some people very angry. How dare we think independently!

Our job (at its best) is to challenge authority, to read the fine print in annual and corporate reports, to FOIA the hell out of reluctant government agencies. It pisses some people off that we don’t just lie down and give up. Too bad.

— How exactly does Trump, or anyone, know whether or not we “like our country?” As if being critical of liars and cheats, dismantling false promises and fact-checking endless assertions is…unpatriotic.

As if “unpatriotic” even matters to us.

That’s not why we do what we do.

Also from the Times:

An element of presidential leadership that we are all taught in grammar school: its broad influence — how it can set a tone for others to follow.

Yes, mistrust of the media was growing even before Mr. Trump emerged on the political scene. But this much is unmistakable: The president is significantly adding to what is, without question, the worst anti-press atmosphere I’ve seen in 25 years in journalism, and real, chilling consequences have surfaced, not just in the United States, but around the world.

We do this work:

— to help audiences better understand a complex world, whether business, science medicine, politics, technology, environment.

— to hold the wealthy accountable to the remaining 99% of us. In an era of income inequality unprecedented in a century, it’s our job to question those grabbing the levers of political and economic power.

— to correct injustices: corruption, false arrests, police brutality, sexism, racism.

— to explain disparate groups to one another, presenting as many perspectives on an issue as possible. (Yes, many outlets skew hard right or hard left.)

— to connect the global economy to audience’s personal experience.

Yes, some of what we do is awful.

Some of it is wrong.

Some of it is poorly reported, poorly edited, poorly written.

It’s gotten so bad that a major women’s journalism group, The International Women’s Media Foundation,  issued a statement in reply to Trump:

“Journalists take incredible risks to bring us the truth.”



Would you really be better off with no news at all?






67 thoughts on “Think it’s all “fake news”? Try living without it

  1. Distrust can be so seductive, and Trump is really only successful in appealing to his supporters’ sense of
    victimhood. He lives in a malevolent world of his own making. I do not think he can imagine work done from conviction, because he has none. I have never appreciated journalists more.

    1. It’s so exciting to imagine journalists as the enemy…as if (!?) we all shared the same POV (hardly) or are all in cahoots. The reason journalism appeals to many of us is because we’re misfits and rabblerousers, and the notion of lining uo under anyone’s flag is bizarre.

      I appreciate — as always! — hearing your thoughts.

      I suspect, for ever person who hates us, there are those who get it — without us, the White House and its bullshit would be impenetrable and opaque (as he wishes it were.)

  2. Trump’s behaviour has given permission to those who would otherwise be hiding their “light” under a bushel. He’s a pure narcissist (so he will continue to be completely ignorant and mind-numbingly blind to logic) who would love to be a dictator, and so far, journalists are helping to keep him in check. My hope is that the opposition you’re hearing is mainly confined to that hopelessly opinionated 32% who choose not to see what he is and are perhaps as bad as he is (the fact that it’s such a high number is scary though). Imho journalists are owed a debt of gratitude. There’s a big reason why dictators target your profession as their first order of business.

    1. I’m afraid it’s only going to get worse, that journalists might be subject to physical attack — they’ve been threatened.

      Telling truth to power —- really pisses off power. 🙂

  3. I used to think talk of him as a crazy dictator type was crazy (in the early election days). And yet, I must admit, he is using every tactic that propaganda nuts use. It’s disgusting. Many of us are smart enough to see through it–the ones that scare me are the ones that buy it. I simply don’t understand it.

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  5. Agreed, we need journalist to keep bringing us the news among the sea of fake news (a term that I despise). I still believe viewers and readers need to do a little research on their own to verify what they read or see, maybe it would help us to decide what media is telling the truth.

    1. If all you do is get your news — as some do — from only one source, you’ll never get much of an idea that journalists (gasp) don’t all think alike and don’t see the world with one lens.

      I wish every American (will never happen) read a foreign newspaper every day — and since most do not speak another language — one in English from Canada, Ireland, the UK or Australia. They would learn a great deal. I read the Financial Times daily (UK.)

    1. The only way for journalists NOT to be a lump of shit-people-hate is to be human beings they know and understand better. That takes curiosity and empathy on the part of non-journalists.

      I loathe it when people say “I hate…” doctors, lawyers, etc, …There are great ones, average ones and lousy ones. It’s so lazy and rude to label people this way.

  6. Most comments so far have voiced support.

    I don’t know whether you’re open to criticism, but perhaps what’s been bothering most Americans about the media is its incessant need to tell them what to think.

    Notably, you wrote, “to help audiences better understand a complex world” and “to explain disparate groups to one another.” Sure, it’s one thing to report what’s happening around the world, but to take it upon oneself to shape the news in a way that aligns with only his or her viewpoint or the viewpoints of those he or she agrees with?

    It’s no wonder Trump won the presidency. During the election and more recently, the media has chosen not to cover both sides of a story. It’s just one-sided (i.e., coverage that’s entrenched in political correctness). How about a bit more diversity and objectivity?

    This is just my opinion, and if you disagree with it, I respect that. I simply commented because I enjoyed reading your post and wanted to engage you in a short dialogue.

    1. I DID make the point — which no one can argue — that some journalists (Fox) skew to the right and others (NYT and others) skew to the left.

      You are clearly someone with intelligence and able to analyze — so to say that ALL coverage is one-sided is absurd. And to refer to “the media” is lazy — there is no “the media.”

      There are endless iterations of thought and analysis and conclusion — from far-right/conservative to far left/liberal. There is no “the media.”

      Trump won the Presidency for many complex reasons, from hatred of Hillary to distrust/dislike/hatred of the Democratic Party to a feeling of utter economic desperation on the part of people who felt ignored by the Democrats and their platform(s.)

      The only way to know anything about the world — and most people will never bother to do it — is to read/listen/watch VERY widely, and even include writing/viewpoints from the foreign press, who bring a very different perspective to their reporting, and cannot, clearly, cast their vote in a U.S. election at any level.

      1. I appreciate your taking the time to write a lengthy reply. You make a number of questionable assumptions about “the media,” all of which is understandably your opinion.

        However, the fact that you felt compelled to say your point is irrefutable (i.e., “which no one can argue”) epitomizes the problem we’re now facing in America.

        You preach the importance of broadening one’s mind, but at the same you hypocritically judge others and rely on personal attacks. Note in my original comment that I refrained from instigating you as the individual responsible for the media’s lackluster reputation. Instead, I proactively used gender inclusive pronouns (i.e., third-person singular reflexive pronouns such as oneself).

        Perhaps rather than antagonize people, you could set an example for them to follow–that is, by keeping an open mind and welcoming different perspectives. Otherwise, how else can we, as Americans, progress socially and intellectually when a segment of the population continues to indulge in pseudo-listening.

      2. Number One — I am not American.

        Please make time to read my Welcome and About pages.

        I am Canadian and chose to move to the United States, only one of 5 countries I’ve lived in. It is only one more country with its own culture, history and issues. I don’t genuflect to any nation’s values. I obey its law, pay taxes to its governments. I feel no need to keep arguing or defending any elements of it.

        I’ve been working as a journalist since 1978. My opinions are based on working for Canadian, British, American and Irish newspapers, staff and freelance, and from my deep knowledge of my industry.

        You’re welcome to any opinion, of course.

        I have made clear I cannot stand Donald Trump or anything he stands for. That, too, is clear from my previous posts.

        So endlessly arguing his value and the uselessness of my work, my career and that of my colleagues is not an issue I’m going to keep debating with you.

      3. Your hostility is interesting.

        I nonetheless empathize with how strongly you may be feeling. It’s not my intent to provoke or make you feel inadequate. As I said before, I enjoyed reading your post. I simply want to engage you in a dialogue.

        Notably, it seems as if you’ve once again reinforced the sort of hypocrisy prevalent in the media; that is, an unwillingness to acknowledge the value of both sides of an issue: “I have made clear I cannot stand Donald Trump or anything he stands for.” Such a resolute attitude doesn’t bode well for conflict resolution.

        Trump has already won the presidency, so what practical use is it now to demonize him for exercising his First Amendment rights? It didn’t work during the campaign, and it’s arguably not going to accomplish anything of significance in the near future.

        Simply put, I’m questioning “your” approach. Since the electorate is the one in need of persuasion, perhaps using the person it elected as president isn’t the only (or even the best) way of regaining the public’s trust.

        People underestimate him, so that might explain why he’s such a deceptively easy target.

      4. I’m not “hostile” nor do I feel the need to keep defending my point of view to you.

        Nor can anyone make me “feel inadequate.” What an interesting idea.

        I am also not going defend Trump or even discuss him — and your persistence, after I said I am done with this, is de facto provocative.

        I am not going to debate this further.

        I have never blocked a commenter, but I’m telling you that this is now a closed subject for me.

      5. You didn’t explicitly state that you wanted to stop talking. No need for threats.

        Having said that, I understand how passionately you feel about this topic.

        You take care.

  7. gbhokahey

    The reason people voted Trump in, was and is that they were tired of the despot demagogue who abused his power while in office (Obama) leaving us with more debt and a void in leadership. It is not just a main stream media that caused the problem, but they clearly had an agenda that was not fact reporting but opinion making for the left. People want and need truth reporting, not political agendas from yet another faction or group. Unfortunately, truth and professionalism left journalism with the on set of sound bite reporting. Everyone wants the journalist to step up again, but no one is holding their breath. Is it skepticism of media\ journalism or is it providence that people have a lack of trust? I think it is the later.

  8. No one really cares what I think, but I THINK there are good and bad reporters like every profession — THERE ARE GOOD AND BAD people / workers in all makes and models / all shapes and sizes.

    Locally, there were three newspapers in my town (Wilkes Barre, PA area). The Sunday Independent is now defunct. Anyways, there were really good people writing stories in those papers and real sick pricks who would antagonize people trying to stir up a story for the purposes of sensationalism.

    The ones who were good and honest I’d talk to if ever asked for a statement. The corrupt jerks who wrote what they were going to write in their first biased place I would tell them to go write for the National Inquirer. I don’t really like Trump that much, but I hope he has success and hope the reporters who loathe him treat him in an unbiased manner.

    1. Thanks for commenting…

      That’s my larger point. It shows a stunning lack of sophistication — on the part of Trump and anyone else — to keep shrieking “fake news” whenever it’s critical of him or his behavior. It’s politics, buddy. Had you no idea? Apparently, he did not.

      And calling the growing/thriving NYT “failing” is also clueless.

      I think any reporter who hopes to keep their job knows that expressing their personal opinion of Trump isn’t welcome in a news story.

      Like you, I’ve met appalling examples of various professions — and excellent ones. No one industry can be tarred with one brush.

      BUT…How the paper’s editors and publishers choose to edit and play it (i.e. what prominence, headline, images, etc. it gets) is also (how many people SCREAMING at reporters even understand how a newsroom hierarchy works?!) beyond every reporter’s pay grade.

      1. Yes, totally agree with you. The funny thing is my whole family loves trump and even my one aunt who doesn’t like him at all wishes him well and hopes he is successful.

        My sister is nuts over trump and he can do no wrong — no matter how nuts or crazy he sounds.

        Me personally, I voted for Jill Stein. I really liked her 🙂

        Too bad people made it a popularity contest. I liked Gary Johnson a little, but he had that Allepo interview disaster then did that stupid satire on the park bench acting like an idiot. That’s when Stein became my candidate.

        Anyways, just curious; I am new to WordPress and I have already clicked to follow you; but I am not sure if I am posting, creating, emailing, or private messaging when I type stuff in the Website. I stumbled across this while doing research for a paper in my Master’s degree class.

        Look forward to reading more of your posts 🙂


      2. Thanks..

        Every comment you make here is public and permanent. If you decide later (it’s happened once in 9 years) you feel you have to have it deleted, that’s not a problem.

  9. Brandon Neifert

    I think the media has gotten out of hand. It has tried to thwart and undermine Trump ever since day one, and is directly responsible for instigating a new cold war. I personally don’t think Trump wants to go to war, and when did the Democratic party become the hawks? I mean, you do seem grossly negligent in the way you report issues, blowing everything to a proportion where if you said the wrong word, it could blow up into a full scale escalation.

    You do need to be more responsible in how you report the facts. As North Korea has launched many missiles over the years, but every one that gets launched anymore gets a public outpouring from the media almost implying that it should lead to full scale conflict. It’s not worth it, in my humble opinion. War on that magnitude would be horrific. There’d be nobody on the planet who wasn’t affected, and it wouldn’t be a benefit at all.

    1. I’ve already explained that there is no such thing as “the media” — did you read that comment?

      There are 1000s of individual reporters, editors and publishers working in the U.S. — and globally. ALL of them, ALL of them, have commented on the Presidency of Donald Trump, and many of them negatively, so assigning blame to EVERY single reporter, editor and publisher is absurd — and to lay at the feet of journalism the possibility of war?

      Good heavens.

      As for “you do need to be more responsible in how you report the facts” I urge you to examine the coverage of Hurricane Harvey. Read every single word written on this subject — and decide, from the safety and comfort of your armchair, which of the facts reported are false and which are true.

      I’m not going to keep debating you on this.

      1. Brandon Neifert

        I shouldn’t have said “You” I meant to edit that out.

        As far as “The Media” is concerned, it would be the “Press.” There are responsible journalists, but few and far between, and yes, the way human behavior works, enough being said about a World War could spark one. It’s in our psyche, and why the press has a responsibility to report fairly.

        The problem was that the Conservative Pundits during Obama ripped him apart unfairly, and now the Media is returning the favor with Trump. And, the fact that all I hear on the Media is how Trump is going to deal harshly with Russia or North Korea, and when he decides to try diplomacy, the media treats it like the worst decision ever, I stand by my statement.

      2. “There are responsible journalists, but few and far between”

        I’m not going to focus more of my attention on this conversation.

        I am a journalist who has worked in my industry — in 3 countries — since 1978. You choose to insult and my colleagues.

      3. Brandon Neifert

        Maybe you are one of those responsible journalists. I don’t know.

        But, your colleagues are not beyond reproach. What I’ve seen is despicable, it’s dangerous, and it’s illegal, some of it.

        You shouldn’t be so inflammatory toward me; I’ve only showed you respect. Maybe us little guys are who you should protect, and not your constituents who are marching us toward WWIII. Of course, Trump has avoided it several times, which would be what a good reporter reported on.

      4. Brandon Neifert

        Yet I liked every one of your comments, I respected you personally, and I said something about the Press that is true.

        You also keep responding. I said nothing inflammatory, unless excluding you from other bad journalists is “Inflammatory.”

        Data can’t prove something that is axiomatic. It’s why we have old literature, and it speaks to the truth; and the fact that information changes people’s perception can hardly be argued with, can it? Isn’t information the very thing we use to base our opinions? Therefore, deductively, I don’t need data to prove that the Press is influencing world conflicts. It’s seen in the fact that so much focus is on a possible war between Russia and the United States, when Trump has expressly made his intentions clear that he wants to broker peace with the Russians and North Korea.

        So, I don’t need data for what I see with my very eyes.

      5. “I don’t need data for what I see with my very eyes”

        No newsroom anywhere in the world would hire you, trust you or retain you as a reporter. Without offering objective data beyond what you see, it’s all opinion and conjecture.

        Reporters are expected to offer facts, not opinions.

        Columnists offer opinions.

      6. Brandon Neifert

        Unfortunately, facts have very little proof. Most of the important stuff is theory. Like Gravity. We have no evidence of a Graviton, but we know it’s real based on the way the universe works. Yet, without that “Fact” of the Graviton, we might as well also say that the Universe is simply falling at a high rate of speed.

        Opinions, also, don’t make something false. There can be true opinions. The idea is that you’ve built a world based on Postmodernism and Empiricalism, and it cannot sustain itself into the future.

        Most of the best inventions were made by pure speculation, and then worked through an idea until the right conclusion was found. They weren’t researched on a database, and then suddenly “Eurika! I’ve found it.” The concept made sense, so they pursued it, even after failure.

        That’s kind of what a Journalist does, is they say “It isn’t true because there is no proof.” Meanwhile, there is proof, but it’s a kind of delicate understanding that has to go into seeing it.

        Most of our best understandings are simply theories, such as Evolution, which there is no empirical data to support, except Horizontal Gene Transfer, which is not evidence of evolution, but inter species breeding. We know evolution is true, however, because of the theory’s validity and soundness. Not because of empirical data. Until we have a time machine, and can watch in real time the evolution of a frog, we’ll simply have to use our best conjecture.

        Sociology is much the same. We have a group of highly intelligent people who speculate on social issues, such as people who work at Rand Corporation, and then they work the theory out to a conclusion, sometimes testing it, but mostly it exists as peer theory, but the validity and soundness of the data used is what produces the result.

        That’s not opinion. That’s using a lot of data to come to conclusions, which is what I did in understanding the role the media is playing in undermining the safety of our nation by trying to broadcast and predict a war that likely won’t happen because Trump is not insane.

        I’m simply saying thank God Trump understands how dangerous war is. But, if you push buttons, it could humiliate him just enough to start a war, which you are well in your capabilities to do.

      7. Brandon Neifert

        As a secondary note, when you read Charles Dickens, do you ever suspect for a second that A Tale of Two Cities is a little microcosm of our world today? Why is he so universally loved? Why does his theory in the abstract form of literature happen here? It’s because there is truth in poetry, which I’m not a columnist, nor am I a journalist. I’m a Literary Theorist. But, so much psychological and sociological investigation goes into that field that it’s also why I can speculate on world events. I see what’s happening in America, and just read A Tale of Two Cities. It will be a perfect picture of here, and I don’t pretend to be a journalist or a columnist. I write fiction, but fiction is a serious art form because it deals with possibilities.

      8. Brandon Neifert

        You might be a responsible journalist. I don’t know as this is the only thing I’ve seen you write. If you are, know you and the several individuals who are also good journalists don’t apply.

        But, with your defense of the media, the press, other journalists, whatever it is you seem to be defending, the bulk of them are irresponsible.

        Let me tell you something: I never asked to be in my position. I was thrown into this position. Whatever position that is, I was thrown into it, and the whole of civilization has control over my happiness. If I’m somehow a problem for challenging you, then so be it. What am I? My name might say I’m royalty, but I’m a small person, with twelve views per post on my blog. I’m happy with my life. You, on the other hand, and I said “You” are part of a huge conglomerate of individuals who shape public opinion. When this conglomerate says things that could threaten my life, I have a right to speak. Whatever consequence I might have for saying this, it’s irrelevant, as I don’t play games. I’m literally on Welfare, I’m literally the lowest form of scum in society. Yet, I’m happy, and I want you to preserve what I have by reporting on the news and being charitable to your president. His job is hard, and he’s doing the best he can. We ought to have respect for our leaders, as it is the Christian way, and it is the right way.

  10. Pingback: Think it’s all “fake news”? Try living without it — Broadside – M.COX Blogpost

  11. We just want the media to report the truth without skewing their report to reflect their personal point of view or that of their editor. That is what Trump is responding to, because we ALL KNOW from our own reading of the news that MANY reporters are VERY BIASED in their reports and that is exactly why I stopped watching regular news and went to FOX but now even they have been tainted and now I just no longer trust the news in general. If they want to report what Trump says without inserting their own interpretation or point of view then I would be more trusting of the reporting but, for now, I just don’t trust the media at all. I really do appreciate your willingness to report fairly but I don’t know who I trust any more. Thank you so much for this report though and your recognition of the reason the media is not trusted any more.

  12. I read where it was said that a lot of people did like President Trump. I asked in an earlier post, was it mainly Christians or was it a mixture? Today I can’t find my post, I was hoping you would comment on it 🙂

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