There should be a differential for misleading news and fake news. I don’t believe they are the same. Writing with a bias steers people towards a particular, often erroneous conclusion. It seems clear sources like cable news and the Post are influenced by strategic leaking by various branches of government, and therefore need to be scrutinized and criticized for serving the interests of someone’s agenda. Sometimes that agenda may be nefarious like Iraq’s WMD, and sometimes it is useful like pursuing the guilty parties in Watergate and whatever Trump’s campaign did. The corporate influence is an ever-present concern. The typical flaw in mainstream news is they report what they are told by powerful people to maintain access.
Fake news is to my mind another animal. It is a man in California pumping out stories about how Hillary is having a stroke and she’s near death so he can draw a few million visitors to his page. It is Russian operatives spreading stories that Hillary had an FBI agent killed or started a sexual dungeon in a pizza place. There is never a retraction or correction process.
It is essential as news consumers of the mainstream media that we understand that dismissing the whole class out of hand is dangerous. There are things only the mainstream media has the resources to investigate. It has the power to influence the majority of Americans because there are always far fewer of us giving ProPublica sufficient publicity. So, it can’t just be left unsupervised by critical thinkers.
Consider what Pulitzer did. He lied about the Spanish bombing the Maine to keep up his paper sales with William Randolph Hearst who lied about the bombing to begin with to sell papers. Soon, we were in the Spanish-American War in no small part due to these newspaper giants. That was over a 100 years ago. The mainstream media has produced many strong journalists since Pulitzer created a journalism school and an award in penance for his actions. It was making mistakes all along that way, too.
Pressure them to do better. Make MSNBC keep Lawrence Donnell or the next one to go is Rachel Maddow. It matters to have at least some liberal voice on TV. If we’ve learned nothing yet, it is that Americans don’t pay attention, don’t seek out alternative sources, and aren’t terribly critical consumers of the news. That leaves it up to the few to shape the mainstream news sources with vocal feedback and consumer strikes. Do we want every network and newspaper with a large subscriber base to think the only customers they serve are of a certain ideology? This is guaranteed to influence their coverage, and they will always have greater resources.
There is just as much danger in overlauding independent media. This leads people to seek out information silos. My independent media tells me what I want to hear and yours tells you (ala Breitbart).