IT is regrettable that many commentators have adopted Donald Trump’s label, “fake news,” to refer to lies and distortions propagated in some sections of the media and on the internet.

Britain’s “tabloid” newspapers have a long history of this. The classic example must be the story about how Birmingham City Council abolished Christmas and renamed it “Winterval” in order to avoid offending religious minorities. This tale was resurrected almost every year from 1997 until 2011, when the Daily Mail finally printed an apology, admitting the story was untrue.

Anyone who reads one of these disreputable rags should assume that anything they read therein is fiction until proven otherwise. Far more sinister are the lies propagated on the internet. The far-right US website, Breitbart, published an entirely fictitious story about 1,000 Muslims attacking and setting fire to Dortmund Cathedral on New Year’s Eve.

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But this is not what Donald Trump means by fake news. What he means by fake news is any kind of news he doesn’t like, even if it is from impeccable sources and supported by incontrovertible evidence. Trump’s version of “fake news” should be clearly distinguished from questionable stories on the internet and in popular newspapers, which require careful scrutiny.

Pete Winstanley, Durham