Things That Matter

This Society Of Journalists Is Trying To Trademark The Term ‘Fake News’ To Stop Trump From Using It

Since President Donald Trump took office, he has frequently relied on the term “fake news” to describe a myriad of things: an exaggerated headline, a dubious “source” that chooses to remain anonymous. But more often than not, he has used the term indiscriminately to describe the media at large–regardless of a news item’s accuracy.

According to Factba.se (a website that allows you to search everything Trump has publicly said and Tweeted), Trump has used the term “fake news” over 1,200 times since becoming president–definitive proof that it is a phrase he regularly relies on the phrase when addressing the public. 

But while Trump may use the term “Fake News” often, he rarely, however, has used the term correctly. 

Dictionary.com–which recently added the word to its lexicon after a surge in its use by the public–defines “fake news” as “(noun): false news stories, often of a sensational nature, created to be widely shared or distributed for the purpose of generating revenue, or promoting or discrediting a public figure, political movement, company, etc.” 

In other words, the term “fake news” should only be applied to stories that are blatantly and demonstrably false–stories that are made to intentionally mislead their reader. The fact that President Trump uses this term in such a misleading way can work to confuse citizens who are trying to discern fact from fiction within the barrage of information they’re exposed to on a daily basis. And as for this journalistic organization, they believe it is their duty to stop President Donald Trump from continuing to misuse the term.

On Tuesday, the President of Florida’s local Society of Professional Journalists published an article on Teen Vogue announcing that her organization was applying to trademark the term “fake news” in order to prevent Trump from using it. 

According to reporter Emily Bloch, the president of the Florida Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, the move is meant to bring awareness to the harm that Trump inflicts on the public when he uses this term so erroneously. And keeping the public well informed is something the organization doesn’t take lightly. 

According to its website, The Society of Professional Journalists is an advocacy group dedicated to protecting the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech and freedom of the press. The organization is “dedicated to encouraging the free practice of journalism and stimulating high standards of ethical behavior”.

Not pulling any punches, the Florida Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has teamed up with the creative agency WAX in order to bring as much awareness as possible to their campaign. While a decision is being made by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the organization will meanwhile be sending cease and desist letters to President Trump, accusing Trump of “trademark infringement”. The Cease and Desist letter states that the organization believes his “misuse of the term” has “greatly confused the American people and shaken their trust in the journalism that’s so vital to our democracy.”

Although they’re optimistic about the discussion their campaign might promote, the organization admittedly doesn’t expect their trademark will be approved. 

According to Bloch, the application to trademark the term “Fake News” isn’t being done in earnest–it’s satire. “No one can really trademark a generic term like ‘fake news’,” she said in her article. According to Bloch, the term “fake news” was widely being used “long before Trump even took office”. Instead, the organization’s ultimate goal is to create enough of a splash in the national discourse that it gets people “to stop and think about what fake news is, and what it means to them”. 

Reporter Emily Bloch also took the time to explain how labeling all journalists as part of the “Fake News Media” agenda (as Trump so regularly does), dehumanizes them. Not only does it degrade a profession that is so important to our democracy it’s referred to as the “Fifth Estate”, it also casts suspicion on journalists as a whole. Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric about journalists puts the safety of journalists at risk.

Bloch argues that it is no coincidence that there have been an uptick of attacks (both verbal and physical) on media outlets since Trump took office.

Bloch cites a laundry list of violent activities that have been aimed at the media since Trump entered the political spotlight: the pipe bomb sent to CNN and other Trump-critics by an unstable MAGA fan, the doctored footage of Trump shooting reporters shown at his resort, and the shirt that an airline passenger wore that promoted the lynching of journalists. 

So, even if the application for trademark is simply “a joke with a point”, as Bloch calls it in her article, it is at least an attempt to spark an important discussion. When the elected leader of our country consistently calls news stories he doesn’t like “fake news”, he is desensitizing Americans to the true meaning of the term, making them question reality. And when Americans don’t know what to believe, how can they be confident in their decisions?

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