January 14, 2017

GEORGE SCOVILLE: “Fake News?” Media, Heal Thyself.

In December, PolitiFact awarded its “2016 Lie of the Year” award to “Fake news.” But mainstream press deserves plenty of blame. We can’t all be gullible rubes, after all. Why are American news consumers turning away from mainstream media? The answer is simple: contemporary reporting is awful.

According to George Mason University economist and political scientist Tim Groseclose, whose work has focused on measuring partisan bias in the press, news editors and reporters overwhelmingly skew left on the American political spectrum. To wit, the Center for Public Integrity found that, of the over $396,000 that members of the press gave in 2016 to the two major presidential campaigns, 96 percent of the funds went to Clinton.

Recent headlines claiming that malicious foreign actors “hacked” the 2016 election suggest that editors make deliberate choices to try to shape how we think about current events. Although federal officials have found no evidence of vote-tampering, the damage is already done: over 50 percent of Democrats in a recent YouGov poll think Russians hacked actual vote tallies to help Trump. This conspiracy theory rivals the belief that President Obama is a Kenyan Muslim.

Michael Cleply, a former New York Times reporter, wrote after the election that his editors often assigned stories to him with prepackaged narratives. His job was to gather facts and comments from sources to support the storyline. This is not “reporting.” It is little wonder that many people distrust mainstream media.

Nope.

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