By analyzing the subcultures that thrive on social media, some new research is painting a clearer picture of why some really weird stuff has gone down in this country since 2015.
Sowing the seeds for a press-bashing president, mass misinformation campaigns, and a general climate of confusion, we now know that the mainstream media lost touch with the American public by that time.
The new findings come courtesy of the Knight Foundation, which analyzed more than 46 million tweets with community-related hashtags from 2015 through 2016.
During that period, a favorability analysis of 23 major news outlets showed that people were twice as likely to express negative views of news outlets as positive views.
Despite Donald Trump turning the words “fake news” into a personal mantra around the middle of 2015, media criticism at the time was generally directed at what was perceived to be a harmful framing of news by the media.
As the Knight Foundation found, people did not so much dispute the basic facts being reported as ask why certain facts were being emphasized at the expense of others.
Increasingly, people were using Twitter as a curated news source to avoid “problematic portrayals” by mainstream media outlets, according to LaSharah Bunting, the Knight Foundation's director for journalism. “A strong future for journalism is dependent on accurate reporting that reflects the stories and concerns of all of our communities,” Bunting explains in the report.
To improve public perceptions, the news media must continue to raise its social IQ and correctly interpret the activities of social subcultures. For instance, the number of times a story is shared on social media is still widely seen as an endorsement by news organizations.
Yet, while shares are important metrics for news impact, Knight’s analysis revealed that popularity in terms of share counts does not necessarily mean approval or trust.
For example, BuzzFeed, The Washington Post, The New York Times, HuffPost and CNN were among the top 10 most shared outlets across top social communities, from 2015 to 2016.
Of these outlets, however, only BuzzFeed had a favorability score above zero.