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COMMENTARY

As I am prone to do, I recently watched a documentary in hopes of adding to the list of interesting things I have learned. Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press, a Netflix-original documentary released in January (see trailer above), focuses on Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against online media outlet Gawker.

For those of you who don’t remember, Gawker published a video of Hogan engaged in sexual activities with the wife of his friend, Bubba the Love Sponge. It eventually became public that Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel was the financial source behind the lawsuit, which Hogan eventually won.

Most people probably don’t know Thiel, as he is typically a behind-the-scenes finance person on major projects. He was among the initial investors in Facebook, and he helped start up PayPal. Gawker also outed him as gay, and his response indicated that he was unhappy with the public announcement of his private lifestyle. Thiel became a man on a mission. His goal was to put Gawker out of business, and his outrage was understandable, but his motives and methods used to go after Gawker were borderline childish.

The documentary goes on to talk about Sheldon Adelson’s secretive purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, a newspaper that had occasionally criticized the conservative billionaire’s business dealings. Instead of continuing to have the newspaper be a thorn in his side, Adelson bought the state’s newspaper of record and sent the editorial content in a different direction.

The two men who chose different routes to silence the free press had one significant common connection: support for President Donald Trump, the man who is leading the cause against today’s media.

Newer media blur the line between fake, real news

There are people who actually think those of us in the media actually sit around and hold secret meetings to put out propaganda or “fake news” targeting those who disagree with our own personal agendas. For those who actually believe that, I feel bad for you. Either you failed to pay attention in school, didn’t go to school or you had some tragic event occur during your life that made you distrustful of everyone and everything. No rational person with a double- or triple-digit IQ could expect anyone to believe the entire nation’s media gathered around a central idea of embracing a liberal agenda.

When I have to explain to educated adults that The New York Times and The Washington Post can’t be compared to The Onion (which describes itself as completely satirical) or The Lost Ogle (which occasionally stumbles upon actual news while routinely chasing rumors about people’s personal lives), I’m almost embarrassed to be in the conversation. If someone really believe the Times or WaPo have an agenda for anything but the truth, I just don’t know how to reason with that kind of mind.

As for television, I’ll be the first to admit MSNBC is frequently to the left inasmuch as Fox News is to the right, but CNN seems to fall somewhere closer to the middle – even if they do it poorly sometimes.

People have been posting actual fake news on their social media pages for so long that they have now determined that all news is fake. I can assure you I didn’t spend all that time going to journalism school and chasing down the truth in the hallways of the State Capitol to have random people tell me I made everything up.

Truth, the only agenda

To me, there is a clear distinction between actual news and fake news, and I’m just baffled at the people who honestly don’t know the difference. If an article claims aliens abducted Trump to take him back to his birthplace on Uranus, we can safely assume it is fake news or satire. If an article focuses on an investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia, this is real news about an actual non-partisan investigation. You know, the opposite of fake news.

In my epic job search, I’ve told every prospective employer that, when it comes to earning a paycheck, I am far more concerned with greenback dollars than I am the blue or red affiliated with political leanings. As a PR person, I have helped elect Republican and Democrat office seekers. I have worked with clients on both sides of the political aisle.

Yes, I have sat in on editorial meetings when various story ideas were hurtful to Democrats. Some were hurtful to Republicans, too. But all were built around explaining truthfully what was happening and making sure the general public was aware of it. Believe it or not, people who rise to political power actually do illegal things sometimes, and they are willing to say or do anything to keep the public from believing they did it.

My only agenda, as is the case with most of the media, is the truth. If the truth is equal to “fake news” in your eyes, then it is clearly not the media that has a perception problem, my friends. It may just be time to get your views examined so you can better understand what is actually rather than perceptively going on around you.

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Jeff Packham is the CEO of Jupiter Promotions, a full-service public relations, marketing and social media management company in Oklahoma City. He has worked as a reporter covering the Oklahoma State Capitol for both the Journal Record and CNHI.