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How fake news opens audience doors to solid journalism

By Maria Terrell

M.Terrell Consulting

Dallas, Texas, USA


These are interesting times.

We have Star Trek-like technology with Alexa and Siri (anyone else remember wishing we could talk to our computers like Captain Kirk as a kid?). And we now live in even more unbelievable times with fake “news,” a potential Russian hacking of U.S. elections(?!), and a public that may not be aware of it.

I’m calling it “the Idiocracy of it all.”

The present day feels strangely like the film Idiocracy.
The present day feels strangely like the film Idiocracy.

If you’ve not seen the movie Idiocracy, I (sadly) recommend it. This Telegraph article pretty adeptly sums it up.

What strikes me in all of this is? Not only are we heading toward living this political situation, but the general public is pretty close to being accurately depicted in the movie (present reading company excluded, of course). I feel there’s a horrific trend that the U.S. news media industry is going to have to buck, and buck quickly. Sadly, we’re not alone.

We used to have an abundance of free news available to audiences, with very few willing to pay for newspapers (whether in print or online). We now have a plethora of news and questionable content being distributed and supported by the less-than-informed general public.

The e-mail attachment viruses of the early 2000s, being carelessly forwarded and opened because we all trust sweet Aunt Betty (she wouldn’t send us a virus!), have since been replaced with fake news or one-sided news being shared, tweeted, and appearing in our news feeds. Just like with the e-mail viruses of past years, we need to be educating the public around the proliferation of fake and inaccurate news.

The fake news trend is making headlines, with people beginning to question what they see in their feeds, while platforms are working to protect the less informed. But this is not enough. Take a look at the top topics from 2016 being searched on Google. Now let’s take a look at the top Facebook video publishers in November 2016 .

There’s not much there from our journalism brethren. A BuzzFeed-style of “chocolate-covered news,” puppies, delicious recipes, and memes seem to be capturing the key audience that journalism and quality news should be.

By spending too long trying to protect our quality content behind subscriptions and paywalls, we’ve eliminated the flow of the necessary quality content and informative/investigative journalism the public needs. Now the pendulum has swung the other direction, and we’re opening up our online content and desperately trying to get back in front the audiences we tried to hit up for cash and commitment five years ago.

Unfortunately, in the five years we were struggling with the business end, free content outlets (some quality and some drivel) have not only gained the audience but trained it to look elsewhere and go from being informed to being “infotained.” 

Journalism has largely turned toward infotainment.
Journalism has largely turned toward infotainment.

And here we are now in the Idiocracy of it all, with misinformation spreading like wildfire and the lack of habit for quality content for the general public. We still have educated and informed segments, but the trend of those actively seeking or subscribing to quality content has been replaced with the passive feed of what our friends or algorithms provide us.

Drivel begets drivel.

With the excitement surrounding the fact the public is becoming aware of its Idiocracy, this is our moment to strike. Gain back the audiences we’ve lost by providing the quality journalism and content — without barriers. Get it out. Get it read. Let it soak in.

We need to regain the trust. The public needs to form the habits to seek quality information. And we need to work with the distribution platforms to change our dried-up creeks of information that were rarely reaching the rivers of drivel to become massive tributaries of quality information flooding the information waters.

If we don’t, just like in Idiocracy, the crops will dry up and die because they’re sprayed with Brawndo (drivel) instead of water (quality content).

About Maria Terrell

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