Politicians and everyday people encourage spread of fake news
In the past few months, a particular oxymoron has cemented itself as a predominant buzz. Fake news or “alternate facts” congest news outlets, enhance the biases of broadcast media and clutter social media timelines. Did the legitimacy of publications take a hit because of fake news? Do people perpetuate the growth of fake news because they want to affirm fallacies?
Fake news is not a new concept. It was originally called “yellow journalism.” Created in the mid-1890s, this type of journalism was famously used by Joseph Pulitzer of the New York World newspaper and William Randolph Hearst of the rival New York Journal. Yellow journalism hyperbolized news to drive sales. They, along with other journalists, contributed to the first press-fueled war: the Spanish-American War. This is one of the earliest examples of the saying: “if it bleeds, it leads.”
In America, the news is mostly split between the big six media broadcasters: CNN, Fox News, ABC, CBS, NBC, and MSNBC. If people don’t get their news from television they might be subscribed to popular publications like the New York Times, the Washington Post or The Atlantic.
However, two of the most popular broadcasters are tied to the American two-party system. CNN favors the views of the Democrat Party and Fox favors the views of the Republican Party.
The issue isn’t so much that they have a certain view on politics, but more so how they let that bias seep into reporting the news. Since neither is shy with its views, there is a direct correlation in how the public trusts or distrusts what they are watching. CNN has only a 30 percent average trust rate and Fox has an average of 27 percent. Their biases taint their reporting in the eyes of viewers and makes them less credible.
During the election, the amount of news about candidates and events was sometimes too immense to keep up with. Since 2005, people began utilizing social media as a way to keep up with the news. This was the breeding ground for fake news from fake publications to be nourished.
The more outrageous the article, the more people will begin to start trying to justify it. But why would anyone purposely justify fake news? The political race was constantly enveloped in scandal. This gave room for fake stories to seem remotely plausible. This was especially true if the article aligned with the viewer’s ideologies. When news validates views, it gets clicks. Those clicks turn into ad revenue.
Social media is a big factor in the spreading of fake news. Facebook is a cesspool for fake news to fester and, in some cases, go viral. Social media taps into multiple people’s mindsets. Since people usually follow others who think like them, the shares only increase.
Political candidates have social media accounts, too, which adds to the problem. Unlike everyone else, their pages will be magnified by the press and by everyday people. Jill Stein or Bernie Sanders’ Twitter pages forward causes they are partial to. When they reference something, they spread information.
Figures like Donald Trump and Joe Walsh tweet as if they were regular people. They use their platform as a sound box for grievances they have against people or situations. On the surface, this seems okay. However, what they say holds more weight. These tweets are direct insights into how they feel about circumstances; unfiltered and without source material to back up the claims.
The media shapes current events to look like a reality show. There does not seem to be a completely neutral source for people to cling to and trust. There’s no trust because the news has not been doing its job. News needs to be presented with objective facts and a stylistic flair. Informed citizens need to be aware of what is important and find reality in the age of fake news.
Opinion columnist Dana Jones is a print journalism junior and can be reached at [email protected]