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Stephen Colbert coins new term, 'truthinews,' for skewed TV news

June 25, 2013|By Meredith Blake

The man who introduced “truthiness” to the lexicon has a new word for us all: “truthinews.”  

As defined by Stephen Colbert, “truthinews” is the practice, increasingly prevalent on cable news, of telling viewers what they want to hear and reporting their opinions back to them as fact.  

The segment was inspired by the revelation that, according to testimony from a self-described conservative Republican employee of the Internal Revenue Service, Tea Party groups were not targeted for political reasons and that there was no evidence of White House involvement -- which, of course, didn't jibe with Colbert's view of the president.

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“So this scandal is not connected to Obama. I don’t want to hear that,” he declared. “I don’t know about you, but I do not watch the news to see what I don’t want to hear. I shouldn’t have to, because these days there’s a news channel for everyone. Conservatives have Fox, liberals have MSNBC and the elderly who lost the remote in 1998 have Headline News.”

As he explained, the “one cardinal rule” of cable news programming is to tell viewers what they want to hear.  “Speaking of which, tune in tomorrow for my special report, ‘Have You Lost Weight?’” Colbert added.

Lately, “truthinews” has reached new heights, as TV news networks seek constant feedback from viewers via text message insta-polls, Twitter reactions and online surveys.

“Cable news is increasingly putting the ‘me’ in media,” Colbert said.

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Tying this phenomenon back to the IRS controversy, Colbert pointed to a CNN poll saying half of Americans believe Pres. Obama was involved anyway, which ran with the headline “Shifting IRS polls contradict key deposition.”

“Years ago I gave you something called truthiness: ignoring what the facts say and instead going with what feels right in your gut,” he said. “You know what happens when you put a bunch of those guts together? You turn truthiness into truthinews.”

If only truthinews had been around over the past century, Colbert suggested, then we might have witnessed historical headlines like “Dewey defeats Truman? You tell us!” and “63% believe Titanic still unsinkable.”

“Luckily now truthinews is here to usher in a new standard of broadcasting,” he said. “First, we ask you what you think the news is, then report that news you told us back to you, then take an insta-Twitter poll to see if you feel informed by yourself, which we will read on the air until we reach that golden day  when we are so responsive to our viewers that cable news is nothing but a mirror, a logo and a news crawl.”


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