fake news

The 5 Takeaways From ‘Insightful Brevity’ on Fake News

From the viewpoints of those who fight it, fake news is formidable, but not invincible.
February 14, 2018
7 mins read

People live in a Golden Age of media with countless opportunities for journalists everywhere.

However, despite the fact that more people are working in the news today than any point in history, people are encountering the largest wave of deliberate misinformation, also referred to as yellow journalism and “fake news.” This has sparked a growing distrust within the population, and as this fake news becomes more and more prevalent in our society, more and more people lose their belief in an objective truth.

In a talk titled “Insightful Brevity” organized by NYU Skirball on Jan. 29, 2018, those at the head of large media corporations has addressed this concept of fake news and the evolution of media in an attempt taking strides to restore the validity of consumer content.

The panel included Jim VandeHei, co-founder and CEO of Axios, Richard Plepler, chairman and CEO of HBO Andy Lack, chairman of NBC News, Ben Smith, editor-in-chief of Buzzfeed and Maggie Haberman, White House Correspondent for The New York Times.

1. Facebook Is The Breeding Ground of Fake News.

As consumers, we must be wary about the sources of our content. It is estimated that around 15 percent of the population gather their news on Facebook; others go to the social network only for irrelevant information about distant relatives and photos of their neighbor’s cat — obviously the sole data that the network has the capacity to hold. It has been proven that based on their refusal to share revenue with news organizations, it is practically impossible for Facebook to generate any real news.

A study conducted by Buzzfeed analysts researched the top 20 stories on Facebook in order to grasp the validity of the content that had reached the largest number of people. Of those 20, 19 of the stories turned out to be fake news.

Shocking news: the most popular news stories on Facebook has zero credibility and no supporting evidence, which explains why some people, including those of the c-suite, call the business a “living, breathing crime scene.” What good is our access to a surplus of information if this information proves to be entirely false?

2. What People Are Saying May Not Allude to What They Really Mean.

Both reporters and those who are being reported about have a distant relationship with the truth. Glamor example: the president.

White House Correspondent for the New York Times Maggie Haberman, who has interviewed the president on multiple occasions, confirmed that Trump has no filter of what comes out of his mouth and sometimes even disputes both sides of an argument within a singular statement.

She feels that for the purpose of keeping the public intrigued, Trump plays games with the press, which alludes to the creation of fake news, which has make understanding the objective of a statement increasingly difficult.

fake news
‘[F]or the purpose of keeping the public intrigued, Trump plays games with the press’ (Image via Univision)
The question on the objectivity of truth rises with the bloom of juicy headlines as there is not a single thing that the entire press world agrees upon. Each news segment or journalist has a different take on reality, and not every detail has the capacity to be fully understood.

For Haberman, as a reporter, she must outline of the story that occurred the most and build off that. Similarly, NBC chairman Andy Lack maintains around 50 investigative reporters in his organization, each necessary in order to gain different versions of the story so as to ensure the validity of that which is run. The intention of these large corporations is to feature a wide range of perspectives in order to bring context to complexity.

3. News Organizations Are Reaching a Much Younger Audience Than They Ever Have.

Each network is experiencing this surge in young viewership, spanning from the age of 18 to 24, who are are tuning in to watch news segments at a higher rate than any other age demographic. This discrepancy in viewership can be attributed to the development in digital technology: anyone can access the news, through the internet, television or radio, at any location in any time. NBC chairman Andy Lack predicts that in the next three years, every news organization will be reaching a much younger audience, and news organizations will need to keep up with this trend in viewership change.

Companies that broadcast media in real time from a variety of users, such as Snapchat, will play the key role in the next development of the press world. NBC has expanded their presence on Snapchat by investing $500 million in Snapchat IPO in March 2017. It can be predicted that news companies will turn their attention to video programs and broadcasting.

Television will play the most significant role in breaking the news on a daily basis, and the audience will dictate, through their interaction with the news, its evolution. It is hard to pinpoint which one among social media and broadcast platforms will hold the highest viewer engagement, but news organization has already started their own pursuit strategy.

4. Politics Are Bending the Truth.

In terms of political media, the waters are “so poisoned that it is hard to imagine getting back,” commented editor-in-chief of Buzzfeed Ben Smith. Political culture has evolved in such a way that the interest of political parties supersedes the truth itself, so much that, he stressed, Buzzfeed has decreased its efforts in covering politics.

Ben Smith estimates that the resources needed for covering the massive amount of political information would outdo its benefits due to the circulated public distrust on the subject. In a world when content is constantly being produced and most of it is fake, separating truth from lies is not an easy task, even for the avid readers.

5. Everything Has Been Tinged with Politics.

As consumers and, more importantly, voters, people must strive to make a distinction between news and entertainment. The panel of “Insightful Brevity” renounces the concept of celebritization of the political realm, arguing that instead, it is politics that has found its way into every aspect of our society.

Celebrity culture may shed light on the political problems within the United States by diminishing the validity within the news. With the recent election of Trump and the potential counter of Oprah, social media appearances has never become that crucial in earning the votes.

With this increased circulation of fake news, the definition of staying “informed” has changed from gathering as much information as one can to pinpointing the truth out of the lies. It is not an easy task, but if we can discern the bigger picture behind any piece of news, it is not unattainable.

Elise Bortz, New York University

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Elise Bortz

New York University
Liberal Studies Program

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