Fake News in Metajournalistic Discourse

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In recent years, fake news has become central to debates about the state and future of journalism. This article examines imaginaries around fake news as a threat to democracy and the role of journalism in mitigating this threat. The study builds on 34 qualitative interviews with Danish journalists, media experts, government officials, and social media company representatives as well as 42 editorials from nine national Danish news outlets. Drawing on discourse theory and the concept of metajournalistic discourse, the analysis finds that media actors mobilise fake news to support opposing discursive positions on journalism and its relationship with falsehoods. While some voices articulate established journalism and journalistic values, such as objectivity, as the antithesis to fake news, others blame contemporary journalistic practices for potentially contributing to misinformation, calling for change and reform. These contrasts are particularly notable between the public stances of editors-in-chief, expressed through editorials, and reflections based on personal experience from news reporters and media experts. The paper concludes that fake news functions as a floating signifier in Danish metajournalistic discourse, mobilised not only to attack or defend journalism, but also to present conflicting visions for what journalism is and ought to be.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournalism Studies
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)423-441
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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