from the post-truth dept
While traditional local papers deserve no shortage of blame for their failure to adapt, media scholars have long pointed out that media consolidation paved the way for a lot of the problems we’re seeing today. The end result of consolidation was the gradual elbowing out of small local news outfits, leaving the sector peppered with propaganda mills like Sinclair Broadcasting, or hollowed out, hedge fund run papers.
A lack of local, quality news has created a vacuum that’s increasingly been filled by political propagandists. Said propagandists have increasingly created “pink slime” news outlets that look like local news, but exist exclusively to spread bullshit and political propaganda.
And once again, they’re highly active ahead of the midterm elections. A new report by NPR documented how residents around the country have been receiving fake newspapers from fake news outlets, filling their heads with fake election misinformation:
Schoenburg first noticed these papers several election cycles ago, born out of the conservative Illinois Policy Institute, which crusaded against greater taxation and regulation. Since then, they have spread across the state, presenting themselves as down-home newspapers in multiple communities with names that hark back to times before people relied on social media to find out out about developments in their communities.
NPR tried to contact story authors at the “papers,” and couldn’t find a single real person. Pri Bengani, a senior researcher at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University (she just wrote a full report that’s worth a read), told NPR that she had counted more than 1,200 bogus local news outlets around the country, all feeding gullible readers a steady diet of misleading bullshit (on top of the bullshit they already consume online).
Researchers have already measured how the death of local news at the hands of consolidation has left Americans less informed and more divided than ever. Nobody has genuinely measured the impact of filling that void with political propaganda. While NPR found that about 5% of these fake news outlets were coming from Democrats, the rest were forged by a broad, right-wing coalition:
She documented instances in which the sites and the larger network provided advertising, SMS messages, robocalls and websites as well as consulting and production costs. Timpone is not the only key figure in the system. Bengani also found links to a huge Texas PAC and a major Republican donor who is an oil-and gas-billionaire. In Texas, articles blamed wind power for the failure of the electrical grid there last year. (That has been discredited by multiple mainstream news outlets.)
Republicans actively opposed financing the press, actively opposed media consolidation restrictions, and have waged a concerted, 45-year effort to build an alternative reality propaganda empire designed to trick Americans into supporting policies that routinely operate against their best interests. Not only that, they managed to get most of the remaining press to act as if this isn’t happening.
Fixing a problem like this requires a multi-tendriled approach we show no interest in adopting. We need more creative funding for journalism untethering it from industry influence and ads. We need better education standards. We need tougher media consolidation guidelines. We need campaign finance reform. We need voting reform. We need a press that can call out right wing propaganda for what it is, instead of hiding between nebulous “bothsideism.” We’re doing… none of that.
Instead, what we mostly get is a lot of hyperventilation about “disinformation,” followed by lengthy conversations about what’s not possible courtesy of the First Amendment. There the problem sits like a giant turd nobody wants to touch. The NPR piece, for example, presents the problem in great detail — then offers not a single coherent vision for how we can do absolutely anything about it.
Filed Under: fake news, journalism, media consolidation, pink slime, propaganda
Source by www.techdirt.com