A news item is a report of a recent event. Must the report be true to count as a genuine news item? I should think so. Must the report be current as well? Obviously. It is true that Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election, but no longer news that she did. So there are two ways for fake news to be fake: by being false and by being dated.
Now that 'fake news' is a buzz word, or a buzz phrase, we need to be alert to this ambiguity.
But there seems to be another way in which a report can be fake news. Suppose an obnoxious leftist is out to damn Trump by showing that he does not pay Federal income tax. So she gets hold of his 2005 Form 1040 which reveals that he paid millions in taxes and trumpets this information on her political TV show. This too has been called 'fake news.' Here:
Unlike Geraldo Rivera, who was pilloried after his Al Capone vault debacle, Maddow knew that what was in the Trump tax returns wasn’t damning, yet she still hyped it on Twitter and played her audience for fools, thereby becoming the epitome of fake news.
What Maddow reported is true. And we the people did not know until a few days ago what Mr Trump paid in taxes back in aught five; so there is a sense in which the item reported is current. So what makes Maddow's reportage 'fake news'? Apparently, the fact that she was out to damn Trump but somehow did not realize that revealing the contents of his 2005 Form 1040 would make him look good! He paid more in taxes than Bernie and Barack!
I am inclined to conclude that the phrase 'fake news' does now mean much of anything, if it ever did.
Above I pointed to an ambiguity. But it is worse than that. The phrase is vague and becoming vaguer and vaguer. Chalk it up to the vagaries of polemical discourse in this time of bitter political division.
An ambiguous word or phrase admits of two or more definite meanings; a vague word or phrase has no definite meaning. 'Fake news' is a bit like 'buzz word' which has itself become a buzz word.
As for Rachel Maddow, she is becoming the poster girl of TDS. How else do you explain the fact that this intelligent woman did not understand that her 'scoop' would hurt her and her benighted cause while benefiting the president? But I suppose lust for ratings comes into it too. Mindless hatred of Trump plus a lust for ratings.
Next stop: the Twilight Zone.