“Researchers last week posted an analysis of the browsing histories of thousands of adults during the run-up to the 2016 election — a real-time picture of who viewed which fake stories, and what real news those people were seeing at the same time.” The New York Times reported.
However, reading the article and the research report reveals something quite interesting. Researchers and New York Times editors have no idea what fake news is to average Americans.
On one hand, that is a good thing. The fake news the NYT reported as inconsequential are “factually
dubious articles known as “fake news.”” According to the report. Fake news, as this research defines it, had a wide reach, but was only a fraction of the news people read.
“The reach of fake news was wide indeed, the study found, yet also shallow. One in four Americans saw at least one false story, but even the most eager fake-news readers — deeply conservative supporters of President Trump — consumed far more of the real kind, from newspaper and network websites and other digital sources.”
This brings us to the BUT… It also shows the disdain the “Old Grey Lady,” historically the nickname for The New York Times, has for “supporters of President Trump.” The BUT, being that even connoisseurs of fake news still got a healthy diet of “real news.”
Here is where the definition of real news is just as important as the definition of fake news. By “real news,” the New York Times means THE NEW YORK TIMES, and other “mainstream” news outlets. However, to the average American fake news is not JUST factually inaccurate.
To many Americans, news sources that are predominantly negative to their point of view is fake news. Those on the right lambasted the NYT and CNN. Those on the left disparage FOX and Breitbart as fake news.
It is as much about giving a full and informative report as it is about accuracy. Several news outlets have covered this imbalance. The Washington Examiner cited a Harvard study of it in December.
“How negative was press coverage of President Trump’s first 100 days in office? Far more than that of Barack Obama, George W. Bush, or Bill Clinton, according to a new report from the Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy.
The Harvard scholars analyzed the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and the main newscasts (not talk shows) of CBS, CNN, Fox and NBC during Trump’s initial time in office. They found, to no one’s surprise, that Trump absolutely dominated news coverage in the first 100 days. And then they found that news coverage was solidly negative — 80 percent negative among those outlets studied, versus 20 percent positive.”
Which begs the question… If a “real news” outlet resists reporting positive news, due to ideological bias, is that FAKE NEWS?
“[T]he coverage of some news organizations was so negative, according to the Harvard study, that it seems hard to argue that the coverage was anywhere near a neutral presentation of facts. Assessing the tone of news coverage, the Harvard researchers found that CNN’s Trump coverage was 93 percent negative, and seven percent positive. The researchers found the same numbers for NBC.”
The New York Times and the recent research study are correct in the assertion that FALSE News did not have a huge impact. Most Americans can tell when something doesn’t pass the smell test, even if it does feed into their ideological narrative.
The more insidious side of FAKE News is in the bias rather than the facts. The tone and impression given by 80% to 93% negative coverage has a much greater impact than “factually dubious articles.”