Media consumption in the fake news era


When presented with the question by New York Times journalist Mark Mazzetti: “Who here believes that what the New York Times or the Washington Post does is fake news?” two people at the morning assembly raised their hands. These two people received dirty glares from other students, generating a lot of controversy and talk among students on campus.

The younger generations currently is receiving their news in many different ways, some of which might contribute to the current influx of the term “fake news.” Before social media, people were getting most of their information from print newspapers such as the New York Times or the Washington Post. In 2019, that number has been greatly reduced in favor of sources like Instagram or Twitter.

In a survey sent out to the whole student body asking where people got their news, 51% of students reported getting their news from Instagram, while 54% of students got it from news websites. This statistic is notable: In 2012, before the “fake news” conversation started, only 34% of people read the newspaper according to the Pew Research Center.

During his talk to the community, Mr. Mazzetti explained where fake news originated, pointing to the time before the 2016 election when writers (in countries like Russia) would sit in a room and make up news stories to disrupt American politics. Mazzetti explained that Trump eventually spun the term around to refer to any news that wasn’t in favor of him. Despite the amount of students that read the news, 12.1% of students at KO believe that news sources that are typically known as reputable are fake. This is considerably more than the two people who raised their hand at the assembly.

Most students trust their news, but not all. Many believe that it is important to get news from sources they don’t agree with. “I don’t really trust FOX,” junior Emma Henry said, “but I try not to just get my news from left-leaning sources.” Of the 45.5% of students who read FOX News, many read it to get a conservative opinion, rather than because they actually trust it. Many of these students identify as more left-leaning. Junior Matt Bzowyckyj, who identifies as conservative, doesn’t trust FOX either, despite agreeing with some of what they say.

“NYT, MSNBC, and CNN are the most biased. I have never read an article from CNN that agrees with one of Trump’s actions,” Matt said. “FOX does the same thing, except they constantly praise him and don’t usually criticize him.”

Freshman Lucia Gomez, who is from Spain, expressed a distrust in all newspapers in the United States, not just conservative or liberal ones. “The newspapers are sponsored, financed and bought by companies,” Lucia said. “The information published by the newspapers will obviously favor its funders, meaning that they can choose what to publish; that leads to a very subjective perspective.”

Freshman Sam Boley, one of the two people who raised their hands at assembly, identifies as 100% conservative. According to him, “Most of the mainstream left media is fake news, and they spend their entire day attacking Trump. CNN, MSNBC, New York Times, and the Washington Post are all fake.” He claims that they “didn’t do this when Obama was president.” Sam exclusively gets his news from FOX, Breitbart, and the Instagram explore page.

Junior Niki Taylor likes to check multiple sources before getting any real information, but said she has a genuine trust in the news. Having spent time at the New York Times this summer, Niki tends to get her news from more liberal sources but cross checks the facts with other places so she knows she is getting reliable information. “I trust [ABC, CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, HuffPost, The Hollywood Reporter, Time, and The Guardian] because it’s obvious that they aren’t making up facts,” Niki said, “especially when they all have the same facts in separate articles.”

One factor that may contribute to a distrust of the news is the fact that journalists may not cover everything that people believe should be covered. Whether this statement is actually true is up for debate, but students believe that mainstream media does not cover everything. Journalists in the past few months have been under attack due to the supposed lack of coverage of the Amazon forest fires. Posts telling people to not trust journalism due to how they treat environmental issues were all over Instagram, which led to an uproar in people not trusting the news they consume, or even not consuming it at all.

The problem was not the big media companies not publishing the news; it was the lack of consumption. The stories that get the most views tend to be promoted more, and people did not read the news of the Amazon forest fires when they first started. Both the New York Times and CNN wrote multiple articles about the fires, including debunking the theory that the fires were caused by climate change. The mainstream media tends to make small news issues a bigger deal to make money, Emma noted. “News stories are often overhyped to get views, which can lead to people thinking we have a greater crisis on our hands than we actually do.” This statement has proven to be true with the fires.

Senior Cai Kuivila believes that the news doesn’t focus on the smaller things in order to promote what people think are important. “Mainstream media is extremely focused right now, especially with the upcoming election,” she said, “so although there is good coverage on many topics and world issues, there are holes in how that is broadcasted with the election and US president taking priority over international issues.”

Another supposed shortcoming in the media is the spreading of news on social media. As investigations have shown, especially in the 2016 election. Many people believe that this is a problem. “People filter many lies about real and important facts, that makes us sometimes distort the reality. If newspapers are mostly not reliable, social media is less,” Lucia said.

Many people believe that social media intensifies fake news. “News on social media is one of the worst things that could happen,” Matt said. “This is where the true ‘fake news’ is born. People often share headlines and clips of stories that they see on social media without first fact-checking said story to see if it is true. As a result, people have become grossly misinformed through social media, and conspiracy theories of both the left and right are spread quickly to millions of people all over the country.”

Sophomore Oliva Reynolds, on the other hand, believes that news on social media is a good thing. “I love having news stories in my Snapchat or Instagram feed,” she said. “I think it grabs my attention and also helps my time on social media feel more productive.” She also said that social media ensures that she will get at least some news every day. “I follow some Instagram accounts purely dedicated to posting about news,” Olivia said, “and their graphs and stats provided make it easier to digest and remember.”

The way people consume news is changing, and with that change comes an alteration in the reliability of certain sources. It’s important to distinguish what is real and fake news in deciding one’s personal political viewpoints.

Mr. Mazzetti mentioned getting news from multiple sources, even if you don’t agree with them or believe in what they say. “I hope people will do what Mazzetti says,” Niki said, “which will hopefully change KO’s political climate.”