The American media ecosystem is clouded with the idea of rampant fake news. Without a doubt fake news is a reality in our internet driven society, but the real issue is reporting marred with political bias and simply bad journalism. After notable missteps and blind spots in reporting, the general public demonstrates clear distrust for the press overall, creating problems as well as opportunities.
Fake news is generally regarded as reporting of stories that are patently false in nature or previously debunked. While a convenient buzzword, its impact is questionable, as fake news is easy to spot. Many fake news domains spoof a mainstream news site, altering the ending. In reality, biased inaccurate reporting coming from the mainstream media is more troubling.
In order for the American press to restore its credibility, integrity, and standing with the general public, media outlets needs to rebalance platforms, adhere to its role in society, and maintain its independence. In doing so, media outlets can connect to broader groups, serve the public’s interest, and garner trust.
The prevailing claim against the American press is the clear and present left leaning bias held by many journalist. Based on Pew research study done, many journalist describe their views as liberal, leading to many publications and broadcasts to be liberal in nature. Conversely, the general public is heavily center right, where conservatives far outnumber liberals. One should consider whether the media should be heavily favoring the fringe views?
In reality, media outlets should not promote ideology, but provide a comprehensive viewpoint. Provide both sides of an argument, with the obvious overtones. Many media reports cast indirect judgment aimed to guide audiences to a preferred outcome. A more appropriate approach is to provide a comprehensive outlay of viewpoints and facts, allowing audiences the independence to decide. Outlets need to once again separate opinion pieces from true journalistic content.
Our society protects an independent press because it serves an important role in educating the public and holding power brokers accountable. The media provides the general public insight on issues and events, detailing causes, outcomes, and impact for society. Many issues would never come to light without the work of investigative journalists. Again, complete set of facts and lack of bias is important.
The media is struggling with handling of the alleged Russian interference. Journalists should cover stories that question public's trust in elected officials. But, at the same time, journalist cannot ignore facts or leads that are not supportive of their intended message. One should not ignore that the accusation is based on a debunked dossier, allegedly funded by his opponent's supporters. Good journalism provides all facts to the public, not a select set to drive a message.
The media needs to maintain its independence from any politician, political party, or movement. In order to maintain credibility, a media organization needs to avoid serving as the marketing arm of the people and organizations it covers. The perception that content is simply a defense of favored politician or promotion of a political party’s position gives strong credibility for fake news accusations.
Compared to Democratic counterparts, Republicans tend to receive more negative attention from media. For instance, media personalities held off reporting on or shedding light on any controversy during the Obama years, but, now, any unvetted anti-Trump message receives immediate air time or front page attention. In the past, the media launched intense personal attacks against President Bush, like the attacks on Trump, but revered Presidents Clinton and Obama. As a result, many Conservatives and Republicans distrust the media and prefer a leader that is willing to take the fight to the media.
Although the media environment right now is chaotic, media outlets can restore reputations and integrity if the media restores its role in society. Many have good reasons to not trust media reporting. It is up to media executives to either confirm their positions or change for the better.