Fake News: Be Careful What You Wish For
Jeff Jarvis
25143

Much of this discussion assumes that “improved journalism” (however you define it) will actually be read by the people it is intended to serve. I wonder if there is any evidence to support this assumption. Did anyone poll voters to uncover how they consume news and which news sources were important to them?

The polling I have read indicates that Trump did better (relative to Romney) in areas where the population was both older and less-educated.

Older Americans and less-educated Americans do not read daily newspapers anymore. (In their defense, few are available.) Moreover, older, less-educated Americans have little capacity to critically read the only media left: digital media and social media. Many have no ability to spot the difference between a reported, fact-based article and an opinion piece. Right-wing news outlets actively undermine the credibility of fact-based reporting through labels such as “mainstream media,” “elite media,” “big media,” as well as accusations of bias.

For this generation, the rules changed mid-life. They were raised on a small number of reliable news sources — ABC/CBS/NBC and a newspaper that landed on the doorstep each day. They had little need to develop the ability to sort fact from fiction. And they don’t spend money on news or newspapers. These people are easy prey for free “news” that merely reflects back their worst fears and inclinations. Nearly everyone I know can tell stories about older relatives living (or, in some cases, dying) with Fox News droning on in the background. Facts are scarce; it takes a lot of work to find them.

Across all age groups, reporting in the NYT or WashPost never reaches vast portions of this country.

Yes, it is important that online platforms such as Facebook and Google crack down on fake news. And it is important that journalists do a better job serving their communities. But these efforts will not be successful until good journalism once again reaches a wide audience and that audience learns to appreciate the difference between facts and fakes.

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