The Mainstream Media Melted Down as Fake News Festered

Conventional news outlets have endured hardships for a while now. The rise of web publishing and content that was free started sabotaging once precious magazines and papers decades past now. And prolong the whims of the social media platforms that hold news organizations’ fortune in their own hands and those left standing are made to experiment with new business models.

But this last year in American media has been harsher than most. The election inspired more compared to the typical quantity of tribalism online, and citizens’ trust in traditional media dropped to an all-time low: just 32 percent told Gallup they have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media.

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Along came the fake news stories and hyper-partisan sites that were more than pleased to release unrecognizable hyperbole and all out lies. The stories didn’t have to be accurate—the public had lost faith in the fact checkers—they just needed to support present beliefs are ’sed by a particular subset of people. And if they did, people would share them. The more people shared by prioritizing them, them, the more Facebook would reward their publishers. By August, one Buzzfeed analysis showed, fake news was increasingly outperforming the very best stories in the 19 major news outlets.
But it wasn’t just these new media platforms—and yes, Facebook is one—that faced an existential crisis. It was occurring on television, also. From the moment Trump took that fated escalator ride down to the lobby of Trump Tower to declare his bid cable news networks like MSNBC and CNN kept their cameras locked on Trump. By September, he previously received 10 times as numerous references on leading television networks as Dr. Ben Carson, his nearest competition for time on air. By the finish of the race, Trump have been mentioned on television 1.26 million times, twice as many times as Hillary Clinton.

As CBS chairman Les Moonves said in the time (and presumably came to regret), Trump’s overexposure “may not be great for America, but it’s damn great for CBS.”
Once it was clear Trump had become a significant rival for the White House, these same networks tried to fact-check him in the minute, with many a viral chyron in the base of the display. “Trump’s Son: Daddy Apologized to Khans (He’sn’t).” A valiant attempt, but for all those who hadn’t already altered the channel, it seems like additional confirmation the media, as Trump often alleged, had it out for him.

The feeling of futility didn’t finish there. As media distrust festered, the man who would become president-elect was assembling a media outlet of his own. On Twitter, he issued leading statements— and leading disses his feed turning into a source plus a competitor for other reporters. Using an competitive digital advertising campaign that helped win him the White House, he expanded his following on Facebook. Who wanted a net packed with think pieces when voters could get fervent and regular updates on Trump direct from your source?

Which brings us to December. Trump working hard to further undermine trust in the press and remains tweeting. The press is simultaneously attempting to decide when a tweet from the soon-to-be president makes up breaking news and when it ought to be written off as a rant. Mark Zuckerberg, meanwhile, is eventually coming around to the theory that maybe, just possibly, Facebook has more influence on people’s political beliefs than he considered. Recently, he announced hoax news sites will no further be able to market on Facebook and that the business is rolling out verification, reporting, and detection tools to allow it to be simpler to spot bogus stories.

After a really grueling year for the media industry, the most difficult part is yet to come, although it’s a start. If 2016 was about dismantling institutions of every shape and size, 2017 will have to be about figuring out where to set them and picking up the pieces.

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