Commentary on the Crisis in Journalism: Rise of Fake News in Today’s Media

Fake news and alternative facts have begun to raise in power as the field of journalism continues to be tested to its limits.

Newly elected President Donald Trump and his administration are at the heart of a crackdown on journalism, by calling out a multitude of news organizations on their credibility. The same news organizations that millions of Americans had previously seen as trustworthy. Organizations such as the New York Times, CNN, and the Washington Post are getting scrutinized by President Trump as being outlets that do nothing but spread false claims in an effort to make him and his policies look bad.

However, are the politicians fully to blame for this criticism?

“The News” is supposed to follow the simple journalistic principle of being unbiased. However, in recent years we have seen multiple large news organizations become more sensationalized in their reporting, while also making it clear that they take opposing stances from other organizations in terms of politics. Two that immediately come to mind are CNN for Democrats and Fox for Republicans.

During the race for the presidency, Fox was on edge about giving their full support to Donald Trump; however they still decided to cover him as the best solution for America – a Republican candidate. CNN made it their mission to depict him as the worst thing  to happen to America. They claimed that he would undo all the policies of the Obama administration without taking into consideration some of the terrible policy choices that the Obama administration made in the past eight years.

This clear bias leaves them open to criticism and undermined by those with power. This is exactly what Trump is doing now by calling CNN reporter a journalist for a “fake news company” during a White House press conference. While I don’t agree with his policies, he has a point to call them out.

cnn-building-by-matt-billings
News organizations that were previously known as “trust worthy sources” have been demonized over the past decade as being biased agenda pushing industries. As the public’s trust in media falls, the jobs of journalists become harder to inform the public. Photo Credit: Matt Billings

 

Journalism has been moving farther away from providing service to people and has continued down the road of hyping up problems to get people talking. The more people that talk and are upset, the more money and traffic those organizations gets. It’s as if large news organizations are letting more journalists spread their own heavily opinionated articles and having the public join the bandwagon.

In Ted McAllister’s article about the “Crisis in Journalism,” he restates Walter Lippman’s point that democracy fails when they try to incorporate a general “public opinion.” Journalists are supposed to work together and help the public relate their own opinions to those running the government. When CNN, Fox, and MSNBC all have different “public opinions,” it makes things more complicated. Not only for the policy makers making the decisions, but for the public who put their trust in journalists.

Moving forward, local level reporting is needs to be the solution for fixing journalism’s bad reputation. It is the local journalists who are striving to most accurately represent the people they are reporting about.

During election night, MSNBC had special guests speaking about Hillary Clinton’s decision to not campaign in Michigan. Many of us saw it as a surprise, evidently costing Clinton the election, but if we had viewed newspapers within Michigan leading up to the election then we would have saw that their local journalists were reporting about this the whole time. They were getting their constituents’ opinion on the matter, but it never reached national news until it was too late.  To them, her losing the state wasn’t a surprise.

It is up to local journalists to relay those local experiences and problems to the national papers and news organizations. The responsibility still rests on large organizations to properly represent that information and share it in an unbiased and meaningful way. Blatant bias just makes an article or matter less newsworthy, and turns it into more of a rant.

As sad as it is to say, Congress does a better job at making it a priority to get their constituent’s opinions across during their meeting than some journalists do in their daily reporting. During the Mylan Drug Company’s hearings, senators from both parties bombarded Heather Bresch – the company’s CEO – with stories of how the increase in price of the Epipen will have serious consequences on families and children. While this was all an attempt to get the company to lower the price on their own free will, it shows how Congress is taking the initiative that news organizations should be doing.

I am anxious about the future of journalism. I believe that eventually large news organizations will lose power as Facebook news feeds and BuzzFeed videos become the predominant news source. This is because people feel that they can gain more from their own social bubbles then they can from corrupt news organizations. This will stem the problem of people only tuning into their own echo chambers. Once that happens, things like further educating the public and exposing them to different perspectives will come to an end.

Journalists need to spend the next year regaining the public’s trust rather than focusing on getting their twisted perspective of public opinion out there. This will especially be difficult as news outlets scramble to regain power and our president continues to do everything in his power to make his supporters disagree with the news.

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