One of the new buzz words that has popped up over the last year is “fake news.”

We hear it over and over and it’s one of the most damaging clichés that has ever been devised because it takes away reasoning and responsibility and gives credence to sources that are indeed fake or false.

Yes, through the magic of the Internet and social media there are fake claims and stories abounding about every subject under the sun. But these have origins that are not actual news sources. Just because it’s on the Internet doesn’t make it true.

Today, the term “fake news” is too often used when a reader or listener doesn’t agree with something. Rather than engage in healthy debate, folks today brush off things they don’t like or understand as fake or false.

It’s also used as a smokescreen to other situations or truths. When someone doesn’t want to admit a news story is true, they brush it off as fake and too many times, people believe that at face value.

That’s where responsibility is lost in today’s world.

Too many people believe everything they are told and don’t take on the personal responsibility to find out what’s right or wrong anymore.

The term “fake news” should be your first red flag that more investigation is needed either in the story or the source of the claim.

For journalists and legitimate news media, this term has become more than just a thorn in the side. It’s become a frustrating uphill battle because the vast majority of real journalists have one goal in mind when they come to work—to do whatever they can to be informative, truthful and be a reliable source of news.

And when that reliability is called into question, it can cause damage personally and professionally.

Tuesday night in Surfside Beach, that claim was made by a town council member. It was in reference to a story or stories in the Herald concerning the town government.

The most recent story is one of many that have come to light in recent years of problems within the small town. This councilmember didn’t like the story’s content and made an announcement that “90 percent of the stories” in our paper are false.

He later tried to brush it off as a joke but this was after the statement was made on the record and in front of a large crowd in attendance at the meeting.

Since the Herald consistently covers the Surfside Beach town council, such a claim can be damaging to the paper, the company and the reporters who spend long hours at council meetings.

Every story published about the town is based on fact. And not every story sheds a negative light on the town.

There have been just as many positive stories about things going on in Surfside Beach such as those highlighting the work of the police in cutting crime and the positive aspects of the police department’s recent National Night Out.

The town has a number of special events that are always featured with stories and photos. Recently, the Herald featured a lady who celebrated her 80th birthday at the town’s luau.

Using this councilmember’s logic of false news, can we construe that the town’s police really aren’t doing a good job and the stories of the fun things going on in town really aren’t true?

Maybe the next time a councilmember doesn’t like a story, he or she should say that rather than impugning the reputation of the news source. Whether a statement is made in jest or not, it can’t be “unheard.”

Or maybe the council should take a closer look at what the story is all about rather than trying to sweep it under the rug and pretend it doesn’t exist by saying it’s fake.

In addition, the council maybe should take a look at the terms “slander” or “defamation of character.”

Those terms aren’t fake. They have real consequences.

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