The term “fake news” is becoming a popular reference these days, and if you read some of the public content coming out of media outlets both in the United States and around the world, it is not hard to understand why. Serious errors seem to be made by members of the press or by independent blogs on an almost weekly basis.
Given the level of false news stories that are being produced, it should not come as a surprise that the general public’s trust in the media is at an all-time low – with a total of 68 percent of Americans stating they have very little or no confidence in our press.
Sloppy, inaccurate reporting has led to Americans deep distrust in the media on both sides of the political aisle. Sources on the right, such as Breitbart News, and sources on the left, like The Huffington Post, have both had to issue serious corrections within the last year for extremely misleading content. Even major news outlets, like Fox News, have found themselves in hot water.
Part of the media inaccuracy trend stems from the political partisanship that has saturated our media platforms in the United States. A good example of this can be seen in a recent study which found that 91 percent of the media coverage on President Donald Trump was negative. Regardless of your political beliefs, we can all agree that this data point is staggering.
The rise of Americans’ suspicion of the media has also coincided with the growth of two other factors – the continued fall of local news sources and the upward rise of alternative digital media platforms, such as blogs. Neither of these factors has boded well for fact-based, unbiased journalism.
While Americans are increasingly skeptical of media in the United States, the rest of the world has seen a rise in their own “fake news.” The Express, a London based newspaper, printed a report with the headline “Merkel calls for EU army to defend Europe as relations with UK and USA weaken.” The subsequent story provided no quotes or evidence to back up the claim, and the paper was forced to issue a correction a few weeks later – only after it whipped the British right-wing blogosphere into a frenzy. This wasn’t the only false, high-profile story put out by a major UK publication either. In 2017, there were multiple major UK media outlets that published egregiously false pieces.
Even our Canadian neighbors have seen a rise in dishonest reporting. The Toronto Star was forced to issue a retraction for a prominent investigation piece it botched. Canada’s blogosphere has also had problems with heavily biased and inaccurate content. Canadaland, a blog led by Jesse Brown, has garnered a wide array of negative attention for their flawed reporting and alleged HR issues and poor labor practices.
One example of Canadaland’s inaccurate reporting occurred when the outlet penned a piece regarding CBC News, which is one of Canada’s leading media organizations. In their article, Canadaland falsely claimed that Amanda Lang, then a reporter for CBC, had attempted to bury a story regarding the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC). In spite of various media outlets highlighting Canadaland’s failure to accurately report the facts in this case, Canadaland doubled down on their false content.
Recent examples like these of factually incorrect and dishonest reporting has led to extreme levels of distrust in the media among people across the globe. Members of the journalism community play a vital role in our society. However, false news stories are doing a great disservice to our nation and countries around the world. It’s time for media outlets to move towards fact-based, independent journalism to earn back the trust of the public.
After all, members of the press – we are all counting on you.
Zach Almond is the former Chair of the North Carolina Federation of College Republicans and the founder of Uwharrie Consulting.