There was this interesting article / survey that was referenced in my class about “Fake News” and the history of American journalism called “American Views: Trust, Media, and Democracy”, where it speculates the consensus or opinions of the American people and compares them through a series of graphs, tables, and diagrams. I find this topic very significant when coupled with the thesis proposal that I am currently working on regarding Korean unification and the implementation of blockchain technology as an underlying infrastructure to serve as the platform of true neutrality that faces the centralized power of the government. I will go over some of the more important findings and lead to certain implications regarding American democracy.
Technological Advances = Eroding Distrust in News Outlets
The overview of this survey is centered around the fact that the technological advances made over time facilitate the ability for the public to access news and information, which is why I find it very unfortunate that the general public’s trust in current news and media today are slowly eroding despite there being more and more outlets for information that are displayed online, in addition to newspapers.
I believe that it is actually very dangerous for the trust in media outlets to dwindle, because if there is no trust in the news that we read, there is no way for us to stay informed outside of our immediate vicinity. For example, the newspaper or the media are our only outlets to understand what is going on in other countries, or even within our state or city. How will we know about any disasters that might have occurred, or even any countries declaring war on the United States?
Old Faithful on Top
One key finding from the survey is very interesting, where “Even in the midst of technological change affecting the news environment, television news programs are the most popular news source. TV news and newspapers are most trusted.” (Gallup, 3). The internet gives almost anyone access to posting information online. This leads to a surplus of additional views and perspectives on the news for us to find, but this also provides more opportunities for these posters to give their own sense of bias in their reported findings.
I believe that this increased trust in the more traditional newspaper or cable news channels may be from the consistency of trusted news findings. I picture it as more of a positive “track record”, where if a specific newspaper has a history of being more or less unbiased with their news, along with maintaining a level of accuracy is what they report, then people are more inclined to trust any future news that they put on their newspapers. For me, I trust the newspaper, “The New York Times”, because they have a history of accurate reporting while maintaining that level of unbiased opinion. They are straight-forward with the way that they report on current events that occur around the world and keep me well-informed on the current issues at hand.
Significance of Politics in Media Today
Another interesting observation that is stated in the survey is that, ”Politics is a major influence on views of the news media – 54% of Democrats have a favorable opinion, and 68% of Republicans have an unfavorable opinion.” (Gallup, 5). This is where I think the news media is messing up with their trust with the general public. The way I see it, most citizens that align themselves with a political party will not bother reading articles or news articles that have an undertone of the opposing party. A Democrat will not bother reading a Republican article, and vice versa. An anecdotal experience would be Fox News being more aligned with the Republican party, thus losing a majority of the trust of Democratic citizens.
I believe that the solution is to have a discourse or conversation with people that might have opposing views than your own. There was a time where after the election where Donald Trump became president, I’ve had friends that posted on their Facebook saying, “anyone that voted for someone other than Hillary Clinton to delete them off their friends list.” This promotes a very toxic environment where one side would condemn the other side for their opinions, and there is this refusal to talk to them, rather than listening to why they hold that perspective on the issue in the first place.
There is this YouTube channel called Jubilee that hosts a series called “Middle-Ground”, where they bring in known groups of people that have opposing views on popular issues today, and they situate into one place where they discuss their reasonings behind their opinions. This is a great precedent for the solution that I suggested earlier because they have these conversations in a non-violent and condemning way.
What comes out of these conversations is that they gain a mutual understanding for one another despite maintaining their foundations for what they believe in. There have even been situations where they switch over to the other side, purely because they were convinced by the opposing argument. People need to be more open to the other side of the argument because I believe that this serves as a “gateway” into being well-informed. No one is going to be well-informed only listening within their own bubble of viewpoints and opinions, where everyone is just going to agree with what you have to say.
A News Outlet’s Respected History
Another interesting finding is that, “Americans say that the explosion of information sources makes it harder, rather than easier, to be well-informed.” (Gallup, 18). I feel that this is a disadvantage that comes along with technological innovations that have developed in society today. With this explosion of information, there also newer sources of media that spawn by the daily, but because these websites are relatively recent in comparison to cable news television or the older newspaper, there is no sense of loyalty or respect earned for these sites that would convince the general reader that this website is “able to be trusted”.
Implications on the American Democracy
This spells out quite a pessimistic implication for American democracy in that this downward trend of trust for news sources as times goes on, due to a constant increase of news sources on the internet. If these news sources are not a part of this foundation of “trusted news sources”, then the general public will continue to not acknowledge these sites as trusted news sources. The problem with this is that the society as a whole will take more of a skeptical viewpoint to absorbing news and have a harder distinguishing what is “fake news” and what isn’t.
This leads to my assumptions that the media is a dangerous entity to address in that freedom of the press is something that is necessary to control the aspect of propaganda in one’s country, yet because of this “right” to freedom of press, these news outlets are capable of fabrication of false news, but in the end we wouldn’t know what is real or fake news, thus allowing people like Donald Trump to claim that anything not fitting his agenda is considered “fake news”.
Concept of Truth Decay
The whole idea of “truth decay” can play a significant role in this survey in that what constitutes as fake news is defined differently depending on the person. This ends up mucking up the conversation of what is considered a fact, or even what the difference is between a fact and an opinion. This decay also addresses the fact that people that beginning to not trust even formerly respected sources of factual information. This contributes to our society transitioning into more of a skeptical state. I believe that it is increasingly difficult to be a well-informed citizen, mainly because of the due diligence required in obtaining this “factual” information.