This Halloween, it’s not ghouls and goblins you should be afraid of; it’s an insidious fake news invasion, and it may be heading your way – if it’s not already in your midst.
Alright, so that may be overly dramatic, but we should all be concerned with fake news and how it continues to spread in our communities despite years of public outcry. “Fake news” is advertising that is embedded in news segments and disguised as real news. The products and segments are never disclosed to the viewers as paid advertisements, and understaffed newsrooms all over the country are increasingly airing fake news because it saves them the time and expense of producing real news that serves the public interest.
It almost goes without saying: the Networked Nonprofit needs an open network. For nonprofits, access to an open Internet is the fundamental and necessary condition that will allow them to compete in the marketplace of ideas. But that condition is threatened.
Public media around the globe are fighting for their lives. It’s a fight we can and must win.
That was the message Mark Thompson, Director General of the BBC, brought to an overflow crowd at a panel discussion on the future of public media sponsored by Free Press and the New America Foundation on Tuesday. Thompson was joined by panelists representing public media, journalism and academia, including Paula Kerger, president and CEO of PBS, Nicholas Lemann, dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and Geneva Overholser, director of USC Annenberg's School of Journalism.
Publishers and editors care more about the bottom line than the quality of their reporting. Newsrooms are shrinking, as a result, and good stories have gone untold. The public is worse off because of it.
So goes one argument, at least, in the debate about public funding of journalism. It’s a hot topic that appears immune to any clear-cut solution, and it’s shaking the foundation of what it means to do journalism and the best way to do it. Among the big questions are:
Should public funding expand to cover the gaps left by the shrinking private news business? Could it expand without government support, and would this create conflicts? Would a heavily subsidized public media serve us better than the private media? If so, how?
Fake news is invading our airwaves, and the Federal Communications Commission is standing idly by as it happens. In an age when consumers can mute and fast-forward commercial breaks, advertisers are looking for ways to sell you products where you’re least expecting it: Embedded into your local news.
Over the past several years working for my local newspaper, I’ve witnessed an industry that carefully manages its news content and keeps it mostly close to home. It’s a kind of “closed loop” ideology that seems natural when the end product is a printed newspaper, with journalism and advertising bundled together in a physical package for delivery to readers.