Media Challenges: Audiences, Fake News, Politics

The news media has long been society’s form of up-to-date information: if you care to stay updated with events that are occurring locally, domestically, or globally you generally watch or read some form of news. However, the state of the news today seems to be that Television or Cable new’s popularity is declining, while digital news and social media articles are on the rise. The three biggest factors that are challenging the news media’s ability or success in serving in its capacity as the citizens’ watchdog of government are economic factors, fake news, and political leanings.

One of the largest factors affecting news media are its economic standings and amount of viewers as a whole. It is easy for people at home to just turn on their television and switch to one of the several news channels, local or network, or buy a newspaper, or even get on their computers. But over the past year, the media’s audience has had a steady decline.

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According to Pew Research,

“The audience for nearly every major sector of the U.S. news media fell in 2017 – with the only exception being radio. The evening audience for both local and network TV news declined 7%, while for cable it fell 12%, according to comScore TV Essentials® and StationView Essentials® data. Meanwhile, digital-native news sites’ audiences declined by 5% in terms of monthly unique visitors in 2017, according to comScore Media Metrix Multi-platform data. And the circulation for U.S. daily newspapers, whose audience has been steadily declining for several decades, fell by 11% last year, according to an analysis of data from the Alliance for Audited Media (AAM)” (Barthel 2018).

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Evidently, the media is losing numbers, and fast. This could be in part due to the fact that we are just getting past an election year, which Pew Research also says that it is common for numbers to drop off after election years. At least, for local and cable TV news channels it is. Barthel also described how the numbers for network unusually dropped:

“The 2016 election was one that many Americans followed closely, and in the past, TV news has generally seen its audience fall off after election years. Most notably, the prime-time audience for cable news fell 18% in 2013 and 9% in 2009, which is in line with the 12% decline in 2017. The post-election change in the early evening local TV news audience has ranged from a decrease of 8% to an increase of 3% over the past four post-election years, putting the 7% decline in 2017 at the low end but still within the normal range. However, network TV’s decline in 2017 was unusual, as its audience has been relatively steady after election years” (Barthel 2018).

Audience numbers are declining strangely now, dropping off not only cable and local TV news but even the massive networks owned by the three major corporations, ABC, NBC, and CBS. The only numbers that seem to stay steady throughout the years are the audience’s of radio and newspapers (Barthel 2018). This is certainly a problem for the media, and one they may want to find an effective solution to quickly.

Furthermore, a major factor that could easily be negatively affecting news media today is fake news. Fake news is a plague to the media, and the world. Fake news is essentially what it sounds like, being news that is not real, but is presented to the world as though it is real. Over time, this news gains a following, with each new member of its cult adding to the ‘legitimacy’ of its preposterous claims. It is most often found throughout social media and digital sources. These made up stories can cause real harm and cause people to do violent things. One example of fake news leading to potential harm is the “pizzagate” stories from 2016. According to the Washington Post, the whole ordeal started when FBI Director James Comey informed Congress that he would be reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server during her time serving as Secretary of State (Fisher 2016). This was because new emails had been found on a computer belonging to the former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, also husband to Clinton’s top aide Huma Abedin (Fisher 2016). The Post wrote,

“Two days later, someone tweeting under the handle @DavidGoldbergNY cited rumors that the new emails “point to a pedophilia ring and @HillaryClinton is at the center.” The rumor was retweeted more than 6,000 times. The notion quickly moved to other social-media platforms, including 4chan and Reddit, mostly through anonymous or pseudonymous posts. On the far-right site Infowars, talk-show host Alex Jones repeatedly suggested that Clinton was involved in a child sex ring and that her campaign chairman, John Podesta, indulged in satanic rituals” (Fisher 2016).

The tweets eventually went into greater detail, claiming that Clinton, her campaign manager and the owner of the restaurant, Comet Ping Pong, were all running the child sex ring in a series of underground tunnels below the restaurant. In a YouTube of Alex Jones talking “truth,” he says things like, “When I think about all the children Hillary Clinton has personally murdered and chopped up and raped, I have zero fear standing up against her” (Fisher 2016), and “Yeah, you heard me right. Hillary Clinton has personally murdered children” (Fisher 2016). He then tops it off with, “I just can’t hold back the truth anymore” (Fisher 2016). This video was viewed over 427,000 times, and the claims spread like wildfire (Fisher 2016). On November 7th, the hashtag #pizzagate first appeared on twitter, and over the next several weeks it would be tweeted and retweeted hundreds or even thousands of times each day (Fisher 2016). Apparently, the most devoted retweeters were actually bots, programs designed to help spread certain information (Fisher 2016). These retweets would push the “news” to gain more attention, more following. After all, the more of a following something has the more likely it is to gain some spotlight, especially online, where any small following can put something on a site that tracks “trending news.”

Eventually, this ‘news’ gained the attention of one Edgar Welch, a father and former firefighter. He was horrified by what he read, so much so that he drove from his home in North Carolina to Washington, D.C. with an assault rifle under the assumption he was going to save some kids. He searched the place, armed and dangerous, while holding everyone in the building hostage: But as the Post wrote, “He found no hidden children, no secret chambers, no evidence of a child sex ring run by the failed Democratic candidate for president of the United States, or by her campaign chief, or by the owner of the pizza place” (Fisher 2016). These stories are a plague that can spread quicker than the Black Death, and depending on the claims they make, can be just as deadly. It is crucial that the media do more about this fake news before it becomes more common. The media must take a stand for itself and for the citizens it is supposed to represent.

Leading me to my next and final point. The media is supposed to be the citizens’ watchdog of government; but just because it may act to serve the general public, does not mean it should take advantage of the public as well. The media holds a tremendous amount of power; the power of information. Journalists and other workers for the media strive tirelessly every day to obtain information for stories to write and present to the people. But the main problem is how in some cases people feel that they are not getting all of the facts, that they are being told only what they are permitted to know. In some cases, they are right. This is in large part due to the fact that the majority of news media has political ties and leanings, and everyone has an agenda.

In conclusion, the media has three major factors negatively affecting its ability. They are losing viewers, which is stemming from the existence of fake news, and the fact that networks have political ties and leanings which leads to agendas. All of this is leading to a loss of trust in the media, proving to the people that they cannot handle the job of informing the public anymore. If the media wishes to fix this, they need to regain some trust. One solution would be to cut political ties and leanings and just present facts to the people. Another would be to call out fake news when they catch wind of it, to take a stand for themselves, in what they do and who they do it for. These are some seemingly simple solutions, and more than likely these actions are easier said than done. That being said, something does need to change within the media for the better, that is for sure.

Updated: Nov 30, 2023
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Media Challenges: Audiences, Fake News, Politics. (2022, Jun 03). Retrieved from

Media Challenges: Audiences, Fake News, Politics essay
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