Media in America, especially mainstream media, has been under the microscope since the recent election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States. The lens of that microscope was actually focused by Donald Trump during his running for the presidency. However, that blame lies on both Trump, who used the media attention he was receiving to further his campaign, and the media outlets who continued to focus on Trump. The media’s excess attention on Donald Trump’s behavior and commentary during the 2016 presidential election resulted in widespread scrutiny (and bi-partisan opinions) of their reporting tactics. Further, during this media firestorm, another layer of “reporting” was added to the mix: fake news. Accusations from both parties have been made across the aisle that conservative and liberal adherents, even foreign powers, flooded the internet with fake news reports at crucial times during the 2016 presidential election with the intention to swing votes in their respective party’s favor. The 2016 presidential election proved that readers of news and media need to stay vigilant and aware of what they are reading and where they are receiving their news.
For the media, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution is arguably the most important. It states that: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” (Amendment, 1). Most notable here are the references to free speech and the freedom of the press. The role of the media in a democracy is to provide that democracy’s citizens with an unbiased and truthful view of what those citizens generally do not have access to. Most importantly, the media in a democracy has the ability to report the government’s activity to its citizens. Truth is of utmost importance when discussing the government in a democracy. Further, with such an important responsibility, it is important to protect the media’s ability to conduct this type of reporting. This is why the First Amendment makes a point to protect the freedom of the press. However, freedom of the press is not so free in a capitalistic democracy. According to a 2012 article, 6 corporations (General Electric, News-Corp, Disney, Viacom, Time Warner, and CBS) control 90% of the mainstream American media (Lutz, 1). Corporate interests mean that media outlets and their stories are filtered through shareholder interests in these corporations. Each individual corporation identifies was strategic, sometimes political, direction will best serve their own interests and then filters what and how they report news stories through those findings. Despite these filters, these corporations generally report accurate, albeit subjective, news.
Recently, however, these major news outlets have encountered a new competitor: fake news. Fake news is completely falsified media that is intended to look like real news. The ultimate goal of fake news depends on the type, but recently fake news has been intended to sway the public’s opinions of political groups and individuals. This is a huge problem that holds major consequences. Some consequences of fake news are: diminished trust in the media, the spread of improper information, and misguided voting information. There are techniques to combat fake news, however. Fact checking site such as Snopes, Politifact, Fastcheck, and Allsides give readers the ability to verify the information they are absorbing.
The Onion’s article “Trump Unveils Sprawling New Presidential Retreat Where He Can Escape From Stresses Of Mar-A-Lago” is a clear satirical article. The jokes about Trump’s numerous trips to the Florida resort Mar-A-Lago by inferring that the president needs a vacation from his many vacations. The article is clearly in jest, but one can check snopes for a truth report, if for some reason they are confused.
Abcnews.com reports in its article “Sean Spicer: President Trump ‘believes that Mike Flynn should go testify’” about the continued fallout of Miachel Flynn’s brief stint as national security adviser (Faulder, 1). Flynn is currently under fire for possible connections to Russia. The article reports on Trump’s opinion, via Twitter, that Flynn is currently involved in a “witch hunt.” This article is verified by numerous sources and directly quotes, with embedded tweets, Donald Trump.
When one visits learnprogress.com, one is immediately inundated with capital letters, pop-ups, and “BREAKING NEWS” stories. From an initial perspective, it is clear that this news source should be thoroughly investigated before accepting its contents as fact. LearnProgress leans to the liberal side of the aisle. The article from the site “WATCH: Democrat Leader OBLITERATES Trump in Viral Rant. MILLIONS Watched” (Learn Progress, 1). Continues multiple unnecessary capitalizations an exaggerated language. Further, like the satirical website The Onion, Learn Progress does not attach an author to its article.