21st Century PR: When All Else Fails, Pretend You’re a Journalist

Despite all the wailing and gnashing of teeth about fake news, biased journalism, and journalists as “very bad people“, the very people complaining the loudest about the press seem to be those who are most adept at manipulating it. Take for example, the current President of the United States, who employs a combination of direct to consumer social media tactics, and also maintains strong relationships with non-professiona,l we-cannot-really-call-them (cough cough) news organizations like infowars, in order to perform the idea of news while supplanting the actual purpose entirely.

A yellow plastic fish caught in a net hangs against a grey cubicle wall
“Fake fish, fake lomo” by Patrick Fitzgerald. CC-BY 2.0. Available from Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/barelyfitz/34407290

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21st Century PR: When All Else Fails, Pretend You’re a Journalist

Twitter politics, polarization and a lack of trust in media: The case of #cdnmedia

One of the hallmarks of the last year of US politics has been a steady stream of messages from the president about “fake news” or the “lying media”. Arguably, this has been a mainstay of Trump’s political strategy since he announced his run for the presidency, and it remains a tactic that he employs, and his followers seem to take at face value. So it’s not surprising to learn that in the US, trust in traditional media is at an all time low. In fact, recent research from the American Press Institute and Associated Press shows that 41% of Americans report having hardly any confidence in the traditional press.

Hashtag symbols painted on concrete
Hashtag by Susanne Nilsson. Available from Flickr: https://flic.kr/p/VeKQb7

What was surprising for me though, as a Canadian researcher, was learning that this is more than just an American issue. In Canada, Statistics Canada reports that only 40% of Canadians report feeling confidence in the national media. With so much information available from so many different sources, it seems as though we just don’t know who or what we should trust anymore. This is true in 2017 and, unfortunately, my research also shows evidence of this trend as early as our Federal election in 2015. We collected thousands of tweets in the month leading up to the 2015 federal election, and we analyzed a sample of them using corpus analysis software along with human content analysis.

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Twitter politics, polarization and a lack of trust in media: The case of #cdnmedia

Why Does Fake News Spread on Social Media? Because Of Our Caveman Brains

In a world of 24/7 cable news, round the clock Amazon Deliveries, and infinite social media notifications, it’s been difficult to not notice how the ways we interact with each other and information is changing each passing day. Chief among these changes of course is the problem of fake news (#fakenews, I guess) or the spread of misinformation in an online environment. Some people blame Facebook and Twitter, who are currently in the news for the role their platforms played in Russian trolling of the 2016 US election. Their involvement notwithstanding, it seems to me that though the platforms had a role to play in the spread of fake news, it was more a passive role in which they took advantage of human frailty, rather than an active one in which their algorithms spread fake news because it’s more exciting content or something. Allow me to explain.

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Why Does Fake News Spread on Social Media? Because Of Our Caveman Brains

Tribes

Quick, what do Donald Trump, Crossfit, and FanExpo have in common?

A man lifting a very heavy barbell loaded with weight
345, Grinnin’ by Travis Isaacs, available from Flikr:https://flic.kr/p/batZUR

No, it’s not a rugged devotion to protein, cool outfits, weird hair or comic book villains – although any of these would have been a good guess.

Actually, it’s that all of these have benefited, in a digital age, from the rise of tribes.

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Tribes