Journalists, media types, reporters, you have two choices: you can fix these problems, or you can watch your profession go down in flames.
Since at least Donald Trump’s election, our media have been in the grip of an astonishing, self-inflicted crisis. Despite Trump’s constant railing against the American press, there is no greater enemy of the American media than the American media. They did this to themselves.
We are in the midst of an epidemic of fake news. There is no better word to describe it than “epidemic,” insofar as it fits the epidemiological model from the Centers for Disease Control: this phenomenon occurs when “an agent and susceptible hosts are present in adequate numbers, and the agent can be effectively conveyed from a source to the susceptible hosts.”
The “agent” in this case is hysteria over Trump’s presidency, and the “susceptible hosts” are a slipshod, reckless, and breathtakingly gullible media class that spread the hysteria around like—well, like a virus.
It is difficult to adequately sum up the breadth of this epidemic, chiefly because it keeps growing: day after day, even hour after hour, the media continue to broadcast, spread, promulgate, publicize, and promote fake news on an industrial scale. It has become a regular part of our news cycle, not distinct from or extraneous to it but a part of it, embedded within the news apparatus as a spoke is embedded in a bicycle wheel.
Whenever you turn on a news station, visit a news website, or check in on a journalist or media personality on Twitter or Facebook, there is an excellent chance you will be exposed to fake news. It is rapidly becoming an accepted part of the way the American media are run.
How we will get out of this is anyone’s guess. We might not get out of it, not so long as Trump is president of these United States. We may be up for four—maybe eight!—long years of authentic fake news media hysteria. It is worth cataloging at least a small sampling of the hysteria so far. Only when we fully assess the extent of the media’s collapse into ignominious ineptitude can we truly begin to reckon with it.