As we limp towards the end of an extraordinary year, we are left with many things with which to remember it by.
Aleppo,Trump, Leicester City and Brexit will be forever associated with 2016 but for many it will be known as the beginning of the post-truth era.
Initially, that adjective rang hollow as those who complained about whoppers tended to be on the losing side. But it soon became clear that there were large numbers of people who were ignoring clear untruths. It wasn’t long before post-truth became a thing and by November it had been named as the international word of the year. But now post-truth hysteria has morphed into the phenomenon which is fake news – one of the reasons why millions believe America will have to wait at least another four years for its first female president.
There are scores of websites now dedicated to made-up stories, and they are big business with some sites making thousands of pounds each month. Now they have become so popular Facebook has introduced a series of measures which will allow its 1.8 billion users to flag up a story which they think is as iffy as a Russian athlete’s sample.
The trouble now is that every story, even the most heart warming, is subject to the most incredible scrutiny. The most high profile appears to be Father Christmas himself – or rather a Tennessee-based typecast actor who told his local newspaper about the dreadful moment that a terminally five-year-old died in his arms. This incarnation of Santa is under the full glare of global scrutiny after the paper later cast doubt on its veracity. He says he withheld the name of the dead child out of respect to the bereaved family but the newspaper knew that when they printed the original story. The man in the red suit has been hung out to dry at a time when we want to believe in miracles but the standard has been set so expect the world to go fact-checking crazy over the coming months.
Getting the story right has always been the number one aim of every journalist I have ever worked with – regardless of their experience. Despite fears to the contrary, there is still a huge appetite for the truth.