Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Responding to “Fake News”: Journalistic Perceptions of and Reactions to a Delegitimising Force

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Abstract:  The “fake news” phenomenon has permeated academic scholarship and popular debate since the 2016 US presidential election. Much has been written on the circulation of “fake news” and other forms of mis- and disinformation online. Despite its ongoing proliferation, less effort has been made to better understand the work of those engaged in daily news production—journalists themselves. Funded by the Australian Research Council project Journalism Beyond the Crisis, this study investigates how journalists perceive and respond to this phenomenon at a time when the industry has come under significant attack, and trust in news media has fallen globally. To do so, it draws on in-depth interviews with journalists in Australia and the UK, providing topical insights on their perceptions of and reactions to this profoundly delegitimising force. While on one hand, our findings show journalists expressing significant concern about the rise of “fake news,” they also proactively seek—and, in some cases, implement—deliberate counterstrategies to defend their profession. These strategies range from discursive means—such as stressing and re-asserting journalists’ professional authority and legitimacy—to tangible measures at an organisational level, including newsroom diversity and increased transparency in the news production process.

Keywords:  fact-checking; fake news; journalism; misinformation; news verification; objectivity; professional roles; Trump election



© Aljosha Karim Schapals, Axel Bruns. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.