The Headlines Scream:
“JOY BEHAR FIRED FROM THE VIEW,” but she wasn’t.
“MICHELLE BACHMAN SAYS JESUS CREATED ASSAULT RIFLES,” but she didn’t.
And my all-time favorite: ANGRY COW KNOCKS HELICOPTER FROM SKY: Udder Destruction! Which never happened but is still hilarious.
The BBC defines fake news as:
- Completely false information, photos or videos purposefully created and spread to confuse or misinform.
- Information, photos or videos manipulated to deceive – or old photographs shared as new.
- Satire or parody which means no harm but can fool people.
Fake news used to be limited to the grocery store checkout line, but the web gave it legs and Twitter gave it wings. Now it’s everywhere all the time.
Fake news is easy to spot, spin not so much. Spin isn’t completely false information manipulated to deceive. It is editorial selection of facts based on undeclared presuppositions along with the imposition of a particular point of view designed to bring about specific conclusions by the viewer or reader. The same reader or viewer might arrive at different conclusions were all the facts delivered—or spun—in a different way. In other words, spin is not fair or balanced.
To spot spin we need to know some things about message crafting in general and journalism in particular.
Every reporter, indeed every message maker from the shortest Twitterer to the longest documentary film-maker makes editorial choices. The choices are limited by time and space and are guided by the story’s theme, as chosen by the writer, and the production’s priorities, specified by the editor or producer. That’s where spin begins, and all communication has some.
Every writer has a purpose which guides the selection of material including, for example the Apostle John who, as an evangelist, chose the stories most likely to convince any reader that Jesus is the Christ.
“Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples,” he wrote, “which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” 
But John and the rest of the Bible’s writers knew that God would hold them accountable to tell the truth. Many publishers, producers, and editors today forget that, or never believed it in the first place. “Too much of the media acts like a special interest group,” said Michael Goodwin, chief political columnist for the New York Post. “It exists to promote its own interest and the political party with which it is aligned.”
Goodwin began his career as a clerk at the New York Times under legendary editor Abe Rosenthal whose commitment to fairness made the Times the flagship of American journalism. No more, says Goodwin. “Standards are like laws in the sense that they are designed to guide your behavior in good times and in bad. Consistent adherence to them was the source of the Times’ credibility. And eliminating them has made the paper less than ordinary. It’s only standards now are double standards.”
Savvy news consumers winnow the facts from the spin and discern which facts have been deselected. Watch for concrete detail, specific examples, and definitive quotes. Ignore generalities and nonspecific adjectives or adverbs.
True, total objectivity is impossible for fallen creatures. All of us are prejudiced. Ethical journalists reporting from a secular worldview usually attempt fairness by quoting person “A” on the left and person “B” on the right. But “conventional objectivity,” as Marvin Olasky, editor in chief of World News Group writes, “balances subjective views that may be ungodly.”
Biblical worldview journalism takes “the God’s-eye view”. Its editorial priorities and conclusions are guided by Scripture. Of course, Scripture doesn’t address everything, so Olasky and company devised a six-tiered system—called rapids, after whitewater rafting’s classification system—by which they set their priorities and draw their conclusions. The lower the number the more certainty about God’s take on an issue. The higher the number—the more difficult rapid—the less likely World is to take a hard and fast stand. Either way, World reports all the facts, or at least all that they can access prior to press time, under the standard of biblical objectivity.
“The heavens declare the glory of God,” says Olasky, “but the streets declare the sinfulness of man. Biblical journalism emphasizes God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness.”
When it comes to journalism, that’s the real thing.
 The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). (Jn 20:30–31). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
 See: Acts 24:13; Romans 9:1; 2 Cor. 1:12; 1 Timothy 1:5; 1 John 1:3 etc.
 Michael Goodwin, The 2016 Election and the Demise of Journalistic Standards, Imprimis, May / June 2017.
 Marvin Olasky, Telling the Truth: How to Revitalize Christian Journalism, p. 33. Crossway Books, Wheaton, Illinois, 1996.
 World Journalism Institute’s World Policy Book & Writer’s Guide p. 7