The fake news issue has escalated quickly and become a lightning rod for the roughly 50% of the country that did not vote for the current administration. They believe the majority of Americans are getting only part of — if not entirely the wrong — story. As a result, we are seeing a level of skepticism aimed at the media that has not existed in many, many years.
It should be noted that the slightly less than 50% of the U.S. who did vote for the current administration do not consider this that large an issue, because they do not see these stories as false, nor do they allow them to discredit their belief’s. I don’t say this to make anyone upset — it is simply a matter of fact that not everyone feels there is an issue here (don’t trust me — go do your own research to ferret this out).
My point of view is that news should be reported in an unbiased manner, with no personal perspective being allowed to taint the view of the facts, or influence which “facts” are reported in the first place. I also admit that every reporter is human and it’s literally impossible not to have a point of view, and that point of view almost always bleeds into any kind of reporting. I’m OK with that in moderation.
My gut says the fake news impact will drive more people to the mainstream press over the next four year, since those reporters are professional enough to keep most of their personal viewpoints out of the story.
I saw a recent chart that mapped out the varying levels of bias in the media, and some of the mainstream brands like USA Today and the New York Times are actually closer to the center than many of the sources that are routinely getting attention in social media — and therein lies the problem. As more people become cynical of the media, will that have a negative impact on Facebook and Twitter? Is it possible that as people stop trusting the “news” in their social media feed and refocus their attention directly on specific outlets, will there be a decline in page views and time spent on these currently dominant formats? I think this is entirely possible, and something that the social media giants are taking seriously.
In recent weeks Facebook has said it’s going to take a more active role in monitoring the news posts in its feeds to ensure real news is getting the attention. Twitter has its own issues currently in the eyes of Wall Street, but paying attention to this issue could help right the ship and redirect attention to making it a truly viable medium again.
Left to their own devices, people tend to click on and share the dramatic, and the self-publishing vehicle of the Internet makes it easy for anyone with a Web connection and a point of view to create content that can be eventually shared with millions of people. Couple this with the fact that extremism sells papers, so to speak, and you end up right where we are now: with dramatic, polarizing perspectives that influence and in many cases create the news — and a hungry populace that is more than willing to perpetuate any opinion that aligns with their own, regardless of the facts.
In media, as in everything else, the pendulum swings from one side to the next. I did some reading and discovered that the press has been like this before, with half-truths dominating in the late 1800s and even in the 1950s. The ship does tend to right itself from time to time, but once in a while it needs a push. This just might be one of those times.
My hope is that you will look at everything with a grain of salt and always consider the source, regardless of what side you are on. Try to hear both sides of the argument and realize that the truth always lies somewhere in the middle. I know I’m trying to do so, regardless of how difficult it might actually be.
I don’t think social media deserves to suffer because our opinions might be less than equally informed. Don’t you agree?