Mainstream American journalism as we know it died in the wee hours of Nov. 9, 2016.
It is survived by click-bait shops and a few Macedonian kids who like to make up fake stories.
The funeral will be held at OH LOOK AT THAT LITTLE IGUANA ESCAPING FROM THOSE SNAKES!
I’ve talked to a bunch of distraught liberal friends since the election of Donald Trump to the presidency.
All are angry by what has happened and many blame “the mainstream media” for the result.
I do too.
Despite what some say, this was in fact a failure of media.
But I don’t blame cable news or print sources for letting Trump get away with it.
He was relentlessly covered during the general election and many typically straight reporters got dangerously close to the line in their reports on him.
Newspapers again showed why they are the most important institutions during a political campaign (outside of the FBI, of course).
David Fahrenthold’s indefatigable reporting on Trump’s lack of private donations and his shady charitable foundation for the Washington Post is deserving of massive praise from all sensible people. He also first reported on Trump’s controversial comments in a now infamous Access Hollywood tape.
The New York Times deserves plaudits for reporting on a leaked copy of Trump’s 1995 tax returns. It showed that Trump had possibly not paid taxes for up to 18 years and that he lost $916 million in a single year.
Many local papers chipped away at Trump’s lies and business failures in a daily beat that was impressive.
57 of the largest papers in America endorsed Clinton. Two endorsed Trump.
But none of it mattered.
People weren’t interested in the truth because they didn’t believe it when they saw it.
They either didn’t have the ability to see it or they did and chose not to anyway.
Many have simply lost faith in mainstream media and the form of journalism that emits from them.
It was a failure of media, not because reporters didn’t do a terrific job, but rather do to the fact that those reporters hold less influence that they did even four years ago.
Our media landscape is more cluttered and confused than at any time since the Tower of Babel hosted an economics reporting conference.
Social media is in part the culprit of this.
Fake news stories frequently run rampant through the ether, inciting anger and hardening views of people and issues that is unmoored to fact.
Proprietary partisan content mills churn out dozens of stories, videos, memes and pictures a day that only seeks to score points for the red or blue teams.
Some of the more irresponsible “Breaking News” twitter feeds keep people who follow them in a perpetual state of terror about the state of the world. Death and chaos is always around the corner and the decay of our culture is a foregone conclusion there.
News aggregators have trained us to only read the headlines and have stunted our ability to read pieces for depth and nuance. This started in broadcast media decades ago (rewrites and readers) and has reached a virulent level on the web.
By the time cable news outlets started doing serious reporting on Trump, it had already allowed him near unlimited amounts of free airtime during the GOP primary.
Sure Trump was horrific, but damn if he isn’t entertaining, the logic of executives seemed to go.
This cognitive dissidence on cable clearly impacted the way he was viewed by many.
But in the end, the biggest element that allowed Trump to outflank the media was the very fact that the media has been democratized and Brexited in its own way.
For example, the Times reports that one particular fake news story of Pope Francis endorsing Trump was shared millions of times.
When the news wasn’t totally fake, it was certainly skewed beyond recognition.
Breitbart has given voice to the Alt-Right, a force that has been circling under the waves of news website comment sections for decades and who forged beachheads on Reddit and 4chan. Breitbart is one of the worst offenders and it is only poised to get more popular as the go to voice box of the impending Trump administration.
Other sites feed into the worst fears and strangest parts of our brains.
Alex Jones and his Infowars outlet, for example claim that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are literal demons who smell of sulfur. Jones has one of the most popular Youtube pages out there as a result of his lunacy.
With all of this noise swirling out there, the delegitimization of mainstream media is somewhat inevitable.
Most people don’t know a journalist in their personal life and aren’t able to discern between truth and junk.
In that environment, mainstream media cannot possibly wield the same level of influence it once did.
Welcome to our post-fact reality.
It is whatever you want it to be.
Cover Photo Credit: Oli Goldsmith/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)