From Chautauqua Institution: Fake News Influence on Campaigns

From Chautauqua Institution: Fake News Influence on Campaigns

Presentations this week at Chautauqua Institution kicked off with recent upheaval in public perceptions of news media.Fake_news_influence_on_progressive_campaigns.jpg

These changes are making it harder for Progressive candidates and causes to get their messages out. NYU professor and media critic, Jay Rosen, described the widening gap between what news media tell us and what we believe.


Rosen's lecture, "Why is the President Trying to Discredit the American Press" addressed the milieu in which major media news stories are increasingly distrusted while fake news influences greater portions of Americans. 

"There is an organized campaign to discredit the main stream press in this country going on right now. And, it is working."

He continued,"When journalists get to their desks in the morning, between 20 and 30 percent of the public, the electorate, is already lost to them before they even log on. Meaning the don't trust them, they don't listen to them, they're not there in the audience or they're actively hostile."

Gallup polling, he said, reveals decreasing trust in American mass media, falling most among Republican voters. 

In 1998, 52% of Republicans trusted the media. Today, that percentage is just 14%.

The drop is at least in part the result of efforts to undermine faith in the media beginning in the 60's with Spiro Agnew's attacks. President Trump has accelerated mistrust as a means to gathering his base around just four "trusted" distributors of his propaganda, Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, Breitbart and Fox News. 

What can Progressive Democratic politicians and policy advocates learn from this?

The mainstream media has allowed mistrust to fester and, in some ways, actually caused it. News outlets have long presumed the American electorate trusts them, regards them as unbiased, without agenda and interested only in serving the public good. Today, however, there's a large portion of the electorate that is highly suspicious of mainstream media.

In response, Rosen declares, both media and their reporters should disclose where they're coming from. By presenting their potential biases upfront, news media can more easily win back the trust of news consumers. 

Another self-inflicted problem is that people in the media don't look like people in the rest of the country.

Rosen continues, "Then there's the homogeneity and coastal concentration of American journalists in a few large cities, which is another way of saying that the American press is not very diverse." Cable news' reliance on political insiders, strategists, handlers and pollsters to interpret what's going on doesn't reflect conversations that are happening among people, particularly those living in fly-over country.

The main lesson is that Progressive Democrats must learn to speak the language of constituents whose support we need to win elections and pass legislation.

This has been a failing of mainstream media. Much of the handwringing on the left echoes similar trends occurring in Progressive-Democratic politics over the last forty years. 

Authors, Drew Westen, George Lakoff and others have chronicled the left's self imposed restrictions to factual arguments when we've long known that most voter behavior is influenced by emotion.

The National Progressive Campaign Resource Center is producing a series of tutorials aimed at helping candidates and causes use processes for developing marketing messages that are known to be influential. This series will launch officially in September 2017.





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