Tired of Fake News? It Will Get Worse.

Tired of fake news? Too bad, you’d better get used to it. The number of newspaper jobs in the United States continues to plummet with no sign of leveling off. Old media is in free-fall, and new media shows little sign of stepping in to fill the void created by its destruction.

As many problems as I have with media bias (especially at the national level), biased newspapers are better than no newspapers at all. At least you can learn to read between the lines. But if newspapers don’t exist, there’s nothing to read, period. At the recent rate of decline, the industry could be kaput in twenty years.

Then you’ll have to get your state/local news from television, press releases, blogs, and social media — or from publications bankrolled by billionaires.

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20 responses to “Tired of Fake News? It Will Get Worse.

  1. The media are already bought out by special interests and others with so much bias. That’s why people aren’t buying a lot of the crap any longer.

  2. Well.. it’s also devastating local newspapers which have not really been accused of “fake” news although they are for biased reporting at times..

    the problem I’m told by a newspaper friend is that ADs are what paid for salaries not subscriptions and ADs have plummeted because of other ways of advertising … AND… bricks and mortar retail is being ripped apart by Amazon and online in general.. and what retail is left is things like Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot, Best Buy, Kohls.. etc.. who now advertising extensively online through websites , email, social media , etc.

    The irony here is that Google has and is making BILLIONS with “advertising” but in a totally different way than papers did.

    I don’t think papers will “die”.. and I also don’t think they’ll die because of “fake news” but I do fear for Democracy and an informed electorate to know what is fake and what is not and to be able to elect people who also know what is and is not fake.

    The sad truth is that we really do have a bunch of folks these days who are not near as much interested in facts and reality as they are their own beliefs and biases and that’s where the demand for fakes news comes from. It would not be there if there was no demand for it.

    Too many no longer believe the government, science, or our major institutions. Everyone, it seems (in their view) is “lying” and colluding… conspiring… etc. and they gravitate towards celebrity and “alt” sources of information that they trust more than traditional sources.. and yes.. then they vote.

    The fundamental basis of our one-man-one-vote Democracy is at risk because a lot of the “information” is basically doctored and deceptive.. like advertising in general can be for products and services.. so too , now it is for politics and political candidates…

    For instance, we get “tax cuts” … that don’t define what will be cut – just taxes reduced… or one of the latest… here:

    ” Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie wants you to know that Democrat Ralph S. Northam voted for “the largest tax increase in Virginia history.”

    Red meat for the anti-tax crowd..no question about it…

    but…….

    In essence, Gillespie—who was the general chairman of McDonnell’s 2009 campaign—is attacking what his own party once described as a historically important piece of legislation that GOP officials wrote, championed and signed into law.

    “This moment shows why Virginia is so fundamentally different from the rest of the country—in a time of crisis and need, we came together and worked in a bipartisan fashion to find a solution,” House Speaker William J. Howell, R-Stafford, said in February 2013 after the bill was passed. The Republican Governors Association called it “a much-needed, long-term, sustainable, bipartisan transportation bill.”

    Four years later, Gillespie has a new spin.”

    http://www.fredericksburg.com/news/va_md_dc/gillespie-rails-against-transportation-deal-that-was-mcdonnell-s-key/article_84a0e247-4624-573a-9324-6ea797f8ccdf.html

    so is this “fake news”… “spin”… or misrepresentation or what?

    at any rate.. it was the Free Lance Star that did tell “the rest of the story”.

    The question is – how many folks read further from the Internet “headlines” and will it affect their vote?

    People in the rest of Virginia are voting for politicians that will cut their health care… by promising to “repeal and replace”… something the voters don’t think affects them but others… they’re all for it!

    Turns out, people who have health care assured by the Govt or think they do .. WILL vote to deny others from getting it because others “don’t deserve it”!

    but .. .. I digress… the real problem is not “fake news”.. it’s folks who want it .. who demand it… prefer it….

    • “Too many no longer believe the government, science, or our major institutions.”

      There is a big difference between not believing our government and not believing science.

  3. As a regular daily reader of the NYTimes and Washington Post, in actual paper, I find the news coverage balanced and factual, and the analysis cogent and helpful. I read the WSJ as well, whose actual news reporting is also balanced. This reported news isn’t, of course, comfortable for Trump supporters, but that’s hardly cause for putting these papers in some “fake news” media basket. How about distinguishing a bit, and actually justifying the “fake” label when it fits? You’ll find it difficult, I think.

    That we have a national crisis brought about by uneducated voters — and ignorant, dogmatic, political leaders — ought to be reason for Bacon’s Rebellion to take a different course and distinguish between balanced and unbalanced media.

  4. The headline that “fake news” will only get worse due to the loss of newspaper jobs is a bit disingenuous.

    Having been in the business for 43 years, I remember what papers and other outlets used to be like and are now. I honestly can’t say there was less “fake news” when newspapers had large staffs than today. There are far fewer resources to throw around and fewer investigative stories are getting done. Yet, when the WashPost, NYT and other national papers do a great deep dive into the Donald or other topic, that is somehow tainted by the right wing as “fake news.”

    A few other observations:

    (1) When newspapers had larger staffs, they would often misuse reporters by having them sit for endless hours at meetings of every type — planning commission, city council, this commission, that school board. This resulted in reporting that was more like stenography than real journalism. You got a lot of turn-of-the screw little stories but you didn’t get the more important larger pieces about why this or that was really important.

    (2) International coverage has really suffered. I was in the foreign news business for about one third of my career and I hit it just as the money started flying out the door with the Internet. In those days, I worked for a large, monied and powerful company based in New York. While the work I did was very hard and tiring, I got “out trips” a couple times a year. If you planned it right, you could spend a week in London carhopping and going to plays and then a week scuba diving in the Indian Ocean. Not any more. Big organizations have been closing bureaus for years and relying instead on local freelancers. They may be far better at the local language but they sometimes lack the nuance needed to understand something on a global basis.

    (3) Opinion. The Net has spawned blogs and lots of other independent outlets like Bacons Rebellion. The operative word here is “opinion.” Too many people especially in smaller, less sophistication think that opinion and analysis are awful things that taint reporting. That’s bullshit. Too many times, politicians or corporations got a free pass for something wrong because newspapers handcuffed themselves to the good old inverted pyramid style. Instead of stating something obvious and true, you had to gin up a local “expert” or “professor” to say it for you. Doing so somehow made it kosher. This is total nonsense and I think we are better off with many new outlets that don’t have to be confined by such ancient rules. Likewise, there was often little chance of getting some important local topic such as tobacco and health into a conservative metro, like the Richmond Times Dispatch. Their idea of a great investigative story in the early 1980s wasn’t how many people Philip Morris was killing, but how new VCR sets were letting people watch porn in their private homes, rather than schlepping over to the Lee Adult Theater.

    (4) With each ‘iteration’ of technology, the news cycle is changed. Trump tweets to avoid his own staff’s editing and filters by the press. Trump’s tweets are usually idiotic and destructive but the approach is interesting. Having smart phones with videos has made it harder for cops to get off brutality cases. Students who want to write the truth about their school can start a Facebook page and not bother with a formal newspaper censored by the administration.
    And it is a lot faster. When I was in Moscow the first time in the mid to late 1980s, our bureau had an old style West German teletype. We’d write a story or file on a new Apple II E and then we’d have to punch a tape. Doing so too 45 minutes. Then we’d have to put the tape into teletype and watch for 45 minutes so the tape (the type you see in World War II movies) didn’t curl over itself and cut. If that happened, you’d have to start all over. This meant I often got to bed about 4 a.m. and really needed an out trip to Rome or Paris. By my second tour in the 1990s, we could send the same file out in a second or two.

    This blog posting serves its usual dogma that everything related to the media is bad and against the conservative point of view. What is really hard, probing investigative reporting in most cases is “fake” news. And yet, when we read something that reads like a Dominion Energy press release here, we are supposed to pretend it is not “fake.”

  5. Despite the best efforts of all involved, bias finds a way to creep into any and all news coverage. I consider the Post and NYT to be great newspapers, and I have read the Post for decades (online now mostly), but I also think they are on a bit of a campaign to get Trump, as they once were on a campaign to get Nixon. But in the end – Haner’s First Law – all fatal wounds in politics are self-inflicted. Only Trump can bring down Trump.

    I’m tired of the Fake News game. Those papers are not Fake News. The web is awash with Fake News but if people didn’t like it, it wouldn’t have been filling supermarket checkout line shelves my entire life. Cable TV is also awash with Fake News and I think the problem with CNN is it really qualifies as biased and sloppy news, but I consider it as much an opinion channel as Fox News. Jim is right that the real crisis is the loss of the various choices and checks and balances, but the bad outcome to fear is not Fake News – it is No News.

  6. I wonder if the trend is similar overseas?
    I feel part of the problem is Americans like their news and politics spicy with controversy and opinion. Otherwise we could have boring and honest engineers and scientists in public office. We do not want that…we want wheeling and dealing and agenda pushing. Sort of like the old snake oil salesman, that approach works with Americans because we have a certain inherent weakness for hype.

  7. T-Bill,
    Overseas, in my experience, the problems of merging straight reporter with opinion are much greater and are accepted. There’s also a different set of ethics — many non-U.S. journalists have no problems with accepting money or junkets. AT the same time, many non-U.S. journalists refuse and the number of murders and torture is huge and little realized. It is very rare for an American journalist to be murdered but it’s happened a lot in Mexico, the Philippines and Russia. XHeck out the Committee to Protect Journalists. Reporters are very much out there in the danger and get little credit for it. INstead, they are smear-bait from people who don’t have to deal with what they have to. I have personally been in a few situations where I was scared for my life but most of it has been more mundane, such as how to unlock a car gas cap when it is frozen by 40 below temperatures. Matches are dangerous. Urination can work, but not in really extreme cold. I have also been taught many more uses for dental floss than I ever imagined.

  8. T-Bill,
    Overseas, in my experience, the problems of merging straight reporter with opinion are much greater and are accepted. There’s also a different set of ethics — many non-U.S. journalists have no problems with accepting money or junkets. AT the same time, many non-U.S. journalists refuse and the number of murders and torture is huge and little realized. It is very rare for an American journalist to be murdered but it’s happened a lot in Mexico, the Philippines and Russia. Check out the Committee to Protect Journalists. Reporters are very much out there in the danger and get little credit for it. INstead, they are smear-bait from people who don’t have to deal with what they have to. I have personally been in a few situations where I was scared for my life but most of it has been more mundane, such as how to unlock a car gas cap when it is frozen by 40 below temperatures. Matches are dangerous. Urination can work, but not in really extreme cold. I have also been taught many more uses for dental floss than I ever imagined.

  9. It’s interesting how we get from a post about the implications of the decline of mainstream media for democracy, to comments that riff on how “This blog posting serves its usual dogma that everything related to the media is bad and against the conservative point of view.” Although, PG, I appreciate the insider perspective on what has changed in the industry.

    Then there is this: “Too many no longer believe the government, science, or our major institutions. Everyone, it seems (in their view) is “lying” and colluding… conspiring… etc. and they gravitate towards celebrity and “alt” sources of information that they trust more than traditional sources.. and yes.. then they vote.” There’s the problem: information silos, or “bubbles,” self-selected by readers who take what they learn there as gospel and reject all contradiction as “fake news.” It’s not just Rush Limbaugh and Mother Jones, but quasi-mainstream sources such as Fox News and MSNBC.

    I agree that the WP and NYT and WSJ adhere to an older, higher standard. Indeed, given a President who has openly declared “war” on them, the bias they’ve shown in criticising his inconsistencies and reckless fabrications and character flaws and in pressing for government transparency and honesty, seems restrained. But what use are “mainstream media” that cannot command the attention, or the respect, of the mainstream voter?

    Lack of ad revenue due to on-line commerce is part of mainstream media’s economic decline, but also it’s lack of readers interested in they have to say. Why? Because their biases made them vulnerable, years ago, to populists on both extremes who have found a calling appealing to readers/listeners/viewers who’d already lost faith in big government and the media’s truthfulness? Because news that’s entertaining sells ads better than unpleasant truths? Because news that’s local is not only cheaper to report on but also grabs attention quicker than national policy (let alone foreign affairs)?

    I would not want to be a journalism professor these days. Sure, there’s plenty of recent material for case studies — but what are the standards we expect young journalists to uphold? And do those standards even begin to apply to their peers in foreign lands, to government press corps, to the purveyors of social commentary on fraternity gang-rapes and other sometimes fake news? To the likes of this blog?

    • When have you ever seen an article in the WaPo about Virginia government that did not push more spending and higher taxes? The Post even refused to publish an article on UVA’s 2007-08 study that overweight trucks caused more than $200 million in annual damage to Virginia roads and bridges and dwarfed the fees for overweight truck permits.

      A couple years later, I sent a link to the study to Delegate Mark Keam (D-Fairfax). He put in a bill and got it passed. While it only fixed part of the problem, it did make some progress.

  10. Will and Ariel Durant wrote a voluminous 11 volume world history called The Story of Civilization. Although it took me several years I read every page. One of the most striking things was the patterns of history that occur over many centuries and across many geographies. As Alexis de Tocqueville observed, “History is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies.”

    So-called “fake news” is a symptom not a disease. And, to be clear, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal are not “fake news”. Biased? Perhaps. But not fake.

    A quick glance at what my longtime friends are posting on Facebook yielded these gems …

    Global Warming Study Canceled After Humiliating Discovery – Conservative Tribune

    KellyAnn Conway Struggles Mightily to Defend Trump, Jr’s Lies and Her Own – Thinkprogress.com

    Why do college educated people post this tripe in the semi-public world of Facebook?

    Social stratification and polarization. As the Gini Coefficient continues to rise and the US Middle Class dissolves into a mere shadow of its former self the elites have a problem. As they continue their monopolization of wealth they run the risk of upsetting the non-elite. So, they set up a modern version of the old Roman Coliseum – only this time the gladiators are phony social warriors (like Bernie Sanders with his $1m+ income last year) and phony family values defenders like Newt Gingrich (with his multiple adulteries).

    Pick a team. Declare your allegiance. Get your daily ration of fake news to throw at the people on the other team. Just don’t mind the $400,000 payday for a single speech that Obama got as a partial reward for putting no bankers in jail.

    Fake news is the ammunition in the intellectual paint ball battle that the elites want the non-elites to fight so the elite can rob the country blind.

  11. Good comments… and I especially like this one from SH: ” The web is awash with Fake News but if people didn’t like it, it wouldn’t have been filling supermarket checkout line shelves my entire life.”

    yepper

  12. Dear Jim,

    I don’t know, somehow I think I hear Colonial Governor William Berkeley chuckling over the plight of the media, he was the one, if memory serves, who “thanked God that Virginia did not have a single newspaper!” ;-))<
    Seriously, we do need good information and better and more reporters in our overgrown age.

    Sincerely,

    Andrew

  13. there’s a little bit of an ironic disconnect here and it has to do with who is responsible for what.

    In the information age – information is a fire hose – and no it ain’t the pure truth from on high.

    All of us have an individual responsibility to do due diligence on information and especially so information we act on – including in our own lives and to include how we vote and participate in governance.

    Whether it is at the local level or the national level – … don’t be blaming the “media” for what we ourselves are too lazy to find out.

    No one said it was easy and anyone who expects only the best quality info to be spoon fed to them… well what can I say? … if you don’t want to be eating no cow pies… then heckfire… don’t be doing it – LEARN TO RECOGNIZE IT!!

    blaming the media for being self ignorant is about the most lame excuse in the book!

    • It’s not self ignorance. It is the presentation of knowingly false information labeled as truth.

      “The trust of the innocent is the liar’s most useful tool” Stephen King

      • no DJ.. people CHOOSE to be willfully ignorance and to seek information that appeals to their own biases.

        Each person has a responsibility to work to find the real facts.. and not just slurp up whatever offal that has been splattered through “media”.

        People BELIEVE that the moon landing was “faked”… that Area 51 has “aliens”… that Sandy Hook was “staged”… etc they purposely seek out “media” that says this.. and their wants are satisfied… by others who will “publish”.

        FAKE News has a DEMAND… that’s why it exists… otherwise it WOULD fall on deaf ears!

        Here’s a test. If you read something that totally fits with your world view and beliefs … don’t believe it without verifying it with other sources!

        • Oddly enough – you are agreeing with me (at least regarding the problem). The polarization of our society has created the demand for fake news. On separate points, I believe the polarization is willful on behalf of the elite. You believe people should take the time to research the facts for themselves. I can’t really agree with you although I don’t really have an alternative. Deliberately misleading the people is a form of manipulating opinion and elections. Asking people to spend hours per day sifting through various accounts in an effort to discern the truth might work for the retired but not the population at large. Perhaps a loosening of the libel laws would put a damper on the fake news industry.

        • Haven’t you ever been in an argument that gets heated? What starts as a reasonable difference of opinion escalates into a shouting match. Certainly the quality of the facts supporting the argument deteriorate as the argument gets more and more shrill. Today’s political environment never stops being shrill and I personally assign more of the blame for that to progressives than to conservatives. That shrillness creates a demand for fake news that would not exist except for the shrillness of the political debate. You can say that people should be cool, calm and collected but they aren’t. You can say that people should verify their facts but they don’t. The question is whether time and cooler heads can take enough shrillness out of the political debate to dampen the demand for fake news. Given the eye bulging, spittle spraying behavior of many of my progressive friends over Trump … I doubt it.

  14. There is an interesting possibly “fake news” story playing out right now from none other than the New York Times. The NYT (as always these days) relying on unnamed sources claims that Donald Trump, Jr was informed via e-mail that meeting he was going to have with a Russian lawyer was for the lawyer to hand over anti-Clinton information from the Kremlin. Trump, Jr admits that he would have been interested in negative opposition research (as would the Clinton Crime Family) but the meeting with the lawyer was regarding American adoptions of Russian children.

    Is it “fake news” to print a feature article based on “unnamed sources”? Does it become “fake news” if the e-mail is never produced or the theory falls apart?

    The lawyer in question has publicly said that she has nothing to do with the Kremlin and the Kremlin says they don’t know who the lawyer is. Trump, Jr claims no opposition research was discussed.

    Right now, we have 3 “named sources” vs 3 unnamed sources.

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