A Legacy Of Misinformation

I've never been a big fan of the term "legacy media," not just because it's normally used as a pejorative, but because I don't think it's accurate and is a generalization, but I'll put that all aside as I weigh in on Media Matters' decision to name legacy media the misinformer of the year, because I agree that many legacy news brands haven't done a good job of staying focused on the biggest story of the past year. And by that I mean, the Big Lie. And explicitly the mainstream news media's coverage of an insurrectionist's campaign to become dictator -- er, I mean president -- once again.

Much of the supporting analysis in Media Matters' case is based on the Big 3 cable news networks coverage, which I understand are considered legacy media brands, but at least two of them -- Fox News Channel and MSNBC -- were launched post-Internet, and there was even a time when CNN -- one of the first pure-play satellite distributed news channels, was considered new, not legacy media.



The analysis does include some breakdowns of legacy print newspaper media brands, but in a far more superficial way: share of references to President Biden's age vs. that of his insurrectionist challenger's (see below).

That said, I think it was a fair and inspired pick, not because of what mainstream news media have been reporting, but for what they haven't been reporting: that there's a persistent, ongoing attack on democratic institutions, Constitutional norms, and the rule of law, all intended to undermine American democracy.

And if you believe the polls, it's working, because they currently show more Americans intent on voting for an insurrectionist who publicly states his intention to be a dictator, and to use the power of his office to exact vengeance and retribution.

That is the biggest story of the year, and mainstream news media have been culpable in not keeping it front and center.

Believe me, as a journalist, I understand why. It's simply not "newsy" to keep covering the same issue over and over and over again. But it's more or less their job. And they've failed to do it. And as a result, they are playing a role in undermining one of the democratic institutions -- the role of the press serving as a check-and-balance of misinformation.

Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of great reporting staying on top of the Big Story about the Big Lie from the major newspapers, digital pure-plays like ProPublica, and others.

And thankfully, advocacy groups like Media Matters, Chuck My Ads, The Lincoln Project, etc., keeping the message out there.

The problem is that the message is being overwhelmed by the short attention span news theater of TikTok and the ilk, and we all already know what engages and goes viral, and generally speaking, it's not always the truth.

I'm not sure what the solution is, but I hope this award is a wake-up call for mainstream news media, otherwise, we know what their long-term legacy will ultimately be.

Media Matters' "Misinformers of the Year":

  • 2023: "Legacy" Media
  • 2022: Tucker Carlson
  • 2021: Steve Bannon
  • 2020: Fox News Channel
  • 2019: John Solomon
  • 2018: Lachlan Murdoch
  • 2017: Mark Zuckerberg
  • 2016: Fake News/Alt Right Media Ecosystem
  • 2015: Center For Medical Progress
  • 2014: George Will
  • 2013: CBS
  • 2012: Rush Limbaugh
  • 2011: Rupert Murdoch/News Corp.
  • 2010: Sarah Palin
  • 2009: Glenn Beck
  • 2008: Sean Hannity
  • 2007: "Misinformation"
  • 2006: ABC
  • 2005: Chris Matthews
  • 2004: Bill O'Reilly
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