The Roots of Fake News: Objecting to Objective Journalism, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

The Roots of Fake News

Objecting to Objective Journalism, 1st Edition

By Brian Winston, Matthew Winston


224 pages

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pub: 2020-08-30
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The Roots of Fake News: Objecting to Objective Journalism argues that ‘fake news’ is not a problem caused by the power of the internet, or by the failure of good journalism to assert itself.  Rather, it is within the news’ ideological foundations – professionalism, neutrality, and most especially objectivity – that the true roots of the current ‘crisis’ are to be found.

Placing the concept of media objectivity in a fuller historical context, this book examines how current perceptions of a crisis in journalism actually fit within a long history of the ways news media have avoided, obscured, or simply ignored the difficulties involved in promising objectivity, let alone ‘truth’. The book examines journalism’s relationships with other spheres of human endeavour (science, law, philosophy) concerned with the pursuit of objective truth, to argue that the rising tide of 'fake news' is not an attack on the traditional ideologies which have supported journalism. Rather, it is an inevitable result of their inherent flaws and vulnerabilities.

This is a valuable resource for students and scholars of journalism and history alike who are interested in understanding the historical roots, and philosophical context of a fiercely contemporary issue.


"This book comes at an optimal time, providing the kind of cultural and contextual history missing from a lot of the debates around fake news. Offering countervailing perspectives, The Roots of Fake News allows the audience to see how what is taken for granted about journalistic practice and epistemology invites bad actors to exploit often ignored vulnerabilities." - Brian Creech, Professor of Journalism at the School of Media and Communication at Temple University

Table of Contents


Foreword: Roots, Fakery & Objectivity: ‘Let Us Count Our Spoons’ 


    1.  ‘Strange Newes’: Printed News 1485 ----

                The Frightening And Truly Extraordinary Story

    2. ‘Newes’: The Coming Of The Newspaper 1600----

                 ‘For The Better Information Of The People’

    3.  ‘Booming A Newspaper’: Newspapers And News-Media 1800----]

                    ‘Many A Good Newspaper Story Has Been Ruined By Over-Verification 

    4.    ‘Oh The Humanity!’: Broadcast News 1900----

                  ‘The Public Interest, Convenience, Or Necessit

    5. .  Online: Digital Newspapers 1980----

              ‘I Come From Cyberspace, The New Home Of Mind

    6.    ‘Info Wars’: News Platforms 2000----

             ‘But Journalism Is Like The Most Honoured Professions In Other Ways’ 

    7. Objecting To Objectivity

    8.   Fact: ‘Hard’ Science                                         

              ‘What Is Behind A Scientific Text?… Inscriptions'

    9.   Fact: ‘Thick’ Descriptions           

            ‘Cultural Analysis Is Intrinsically Incomplete’’

    10.   Judgement: The Legal Mindset

            ‘To Collect All The Proofs On Both Sides; To Compare Them

    11.   Judgement: The Fine Print

      ‘No Provider…. Shall Be Treated As The Publisher’

    12.   Truth: The Philosophical Approach

             ‘Journalism By Nature Is Reactive And Practical

    13.   Truth: Moral Philosophy

             ‘Links Between Cause And Effect Are Still Lacking’

    14. The Fourth Estate 

    15.    Shouting Fire On A Crowded Website - ‘Don’t Confuse Me With The Facts. I’ve Got A Closed Mind’              
    16.     Speaking Truth To Power   ‘….More Important Far Than They All’


About the Authors

Brian Winston is the Lincoln Professor at the University of Lincoln (UK). He is the author of A Right to Offend, The Rushdie Fatwa and After and also writes on documentary film and media technology. He was the founding director of the Glasgow University Media Group.

Matthew Winston is the author of Gonzo Text: Disentangling Meaning in Hunter S. Thompson's Journalism. He teaches in the School of Media, Communication and Sociology at the University of Leicester.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Media Studies