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The Trump dossier and verification in the era of fake news

Ivor Gaber writes in The Conversation (12.1.17) about how the online news source Buzzfeed is being damned for publishing unverified and salacious information about the US president-elect, raising questions about media ethics and responsibilities in the digital ‘post-truth’ world.

‘To verify, or not to verify? That is the question that journalists face on an almost daily basis; but the issue of whether media organisations should publish information that isn’t 100% watertight has been brought into sharp relief by the latest stories about Donald Trump and his alleged involvement with Russia.

‘Verification is a major issue for journalists; the American Press Institute, for example, talks about journalism as a “discipline of verification”. But alas, it is not as simple as that and, like so much else in journalism, it all comes down to the professional judgement of the individual journalist.

‘… It all would be deliciously amusing if these matters were not so important – for Trump describes the reports as “fake news”. This from, if not the founder, then one of the best exponents and major beneficiaries of the genre. A list of Trump lies would take up this entire article but suffice to say that, according to some estimates, during the three presidential debates with Hillary Clinton he lied on average once every 50 seconds.

‘So what goes around comes around. If, in this case, Trump is the innocent victim of “fake news” he has no one to blame but himself. On the other hand, if it is not fake news then that is even more troubling.’

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