How We Talk About the Press
“I believe freedom begins with naming things.” Eve Ensler1
When the American Dialect Society made “fake news” its 2017 “Word of the Year,” the press release suggested two related reasons for the 2 organization’s decision. The first was the term’s ubiquity. The second was its slipperiness. Beyond referring to propaganda, the term fake news had become a weapon—a “rhetorical bludgeon” against the press.3
Since receiving this distinction, “fake news” has continued to enjoy 4 popularity. Scholars, teachers, and journalists still use it. For example, a Harvard website offers students “Four Tips for Spotting a Fake News Story.”5 According to The Guardian, the “Word of the Year” honor (also bestowed on fake news by the U.K.-based Collins Dictionary and the Australian-based Macquarie Dictionary) gave the term fake news a “certain legitimacy.”6
Erin C. Carroll
Professor of Law, Legal Practice, Georgetown University Law Center.