What Happened to the News

So this year, fake news has become quite a
big issue. In truth it’s been an issue for a few years
– for those of you who have been paying attention anyway. But it seemed to really come out of its shell
this year with the election. Possibly even swaying the results. So let’s talk about it. We’re going to focus on television and internet
news here, because basically anything before that is pre-history and doesn’t matter. When the news first started there were only
the big three, ABC, CBS, and NBC – in 1970 PBS was created and publicly funded. It’s basically the closest thing the US
has to a state-run channel. But back to the big three. They were all basically the same and you could
basically trust any of them. They were pretty… basic. They competed on getting the story the most
correct or the most in-depth. There was no such thing as getting it “first”
since every news show was at the same time. Journalism was an honorable profession and
the men who sat behind the desk were some of the most powerful people in the country
– and strangely, only ever used that power for good. There was one problem though. Congress would allow the fledgling networks
free use of taxpayer owned airwaves in exchange for one public service. That public service would be one hour of airtime
set aside for informational broadcasting, or what we now call the evening news. Congress failed to include in its deal the
one requirement that would changed our national discourse immeasurably for the better. The news was a public service. Nothing is more important to a well-functioning
democracy than a well-informed, well-educated electorate. Which is why we also have public schools. Anyway while television stations were willing
to take a financial loss on their mandatory hour of news each day, they soon realized
that they could sell prime advertising space during that hour. An hour when everyone, young or old, regardless
of what television shows they liked to watch, would be watching. And soon, television news became about the
ratings. The news became flashier and more dramatic. There were still only the four competitors
so they weren’t stepping too far out of the range of acceptability though. And while the news was still basically the
information you needed to know, they occasionally threw in some things you might just WANT to
know. You could still trust the big three to do
their due diligence and get a story right – because they had all day to prepare for
it and would only have once or twice to tell it to you. Everyone was consuming basically the same
apple. People may have preferred to get their news
from Dan Rather or Tom Brokaw, but the two anchors saw themselves as equals, not competitors. And when you saw someone else at work, you
knew they were eating basically the same apple – so you might have different opinions on
things, but you were basing those opinions on the same set of facts. Nobody was thinking “Oh you watch CBS? What’s wrong with you, they spin things
so hard you’re practically brainwashed.” No, CBS was the channel for old people because
it was boring. But really It didn’t matter whether you
got your news from an old guy at a desk in front of a red background or an old guy in
front of a blue background. As long as you weren’t watching PBS, because
PBS didn’t have to compete for advertisers so they were boring as sh-
But that all changed with cable. Now at first, cable news was just CNN – the
appropriately-named Cable News Network. But it really began to change when MSNBC and
Fox News came about in the late 90’s. If you ate your apples before like everyone
else, but you really liked it when you’d occasionally find a sweet one. You were in luck. You didn’t expect it all the time but it
was a nice little surprise. Enter Cable News. All sweet apples, all the time, just how you
like them. None of that boring middle stuff and especially
none of those sour ones. Wait, that guy likes sour apples? What is wrong with him, he’s clearly getting
the wrong news and is clearly a moron. And that’s where we are now. You can choose the news you get. How you get it, who presents it, what spin
they put on it. Right wing news for right wing people; sour
apples for sour people. And since they’re in direct 24-hour competition
with each other, they often make it a point to report on the mistakes of the others. Something that would have been unheard of
when it was just the big three. They take it a step further by telling you
just how bad those sour apples really are for you and how all the sour apple people
are lazy. Hardly anyone watches the boring middle apples
anymore – the Nightly News on the big three. The ones who take the time to pick which stories
are important enough for that half hour a day and make sure they’re accurate. By the time the news comes on at night, you’ve
already heard about it on the 24-hour networks – or the internet – all day. The cable news networks aren’t competing
for your attention by being accurate, they’re competing for it by being first… or by serving
a specific demographic. And this problem has only been amplified by
the internet. There are only a few players when it comes
to television news – but on the internet there are literally thousands. And the bias is real. It starts at the bottom, with the most innocuous
form of bias: simply choosing whether or not to cover a story because it’s not what your
demo wants to hear, and goes all the way up to making out-right lies. With all of these sources out there, and with
all them biased in some way, it can be really hard to figure out what the truth really is. It takes night-before-the-due-date-college-paper
level-research sometimes to figure out what’s really going on; and most people simply don’t
have the time. Most people have one or two sources and their
friends. Sources they’ve picked because they like
them and friends they keep because they agree with them – thus fulfilling your confirmation
bias and creating the Echo Chamber. But let’s stop talking about the doom and
gloom of news – and just focus on the doom. There are four types of fake news. The lowest form is Sensationalism. This is when the news will pick the most eye-catching
headline possible, often putting their own spin on it. The headline is the first – and sadly, most
often the only – thing a person will read. Whether it’s the name of the link you sent
them, the big letters under the news anchor’s face, or the top of a newspaper article. The headline contains most of the power. Let’s take a look at an example. “Obama Passes Sweeping Healthcare Reform;
Helping Millions” “Government Takeover of Healthcare System
Enacted by Obama” These two are about the same event. And the way the news decides to write the
headline will completely change the way most people will think about that event – whether
they read the story or not. Oftentimes the story itself will be full of
spin as well. This is also where clickbait comes in. The headlines that read “You won’t believe
what happens next” or “what he said next will shock you.” Or when they use a barely-related image of
a super model in order to attract more eyes. I mean, not my eyes, because I don’t objectify
women like that but… other people’s eyes. Advertisers do this too, with some sort of
quiz that only 3% of people can pass. You want to see if you’re part of that special
3%. And once you’re taking the color quiz *roll
eyes* you probably don’t notice is loaded with ads. And then you can share the fact that you’re
smarter than 90% of Harvard students on your facebook – so more people can see those
ads. Which brings us to the second form of fake
news – Sponsored Content. Also called Native Advertising or Branded
Content. John Oliver does a fantastic segment about
this that you should check out. But basically it’s when an advertiser has
paid someone to write a news story or make a youtube video about a specific topic – make
sure it looks like every other article or video… but also make sure to mention their
product. Hi I’m Craig, welcome to the salon, did you
know that people used to believe that brass instruments caused hair loss? And that’s the first of many hair myths that
the scientists at Head and Shoulders are helping us clear up in today’s episode, so I can condition
you to stop telling hair lies. -Mental Floss Clip-
“Hail Corporate!” Now this example isn’t necessarily the news,
but it is educational and informational content, so you shouldn’t reasonably expect native
advertising – and most people probably don’t even notice it. But I do. When it happens in the news, it’s usually
in the morning news, when they’re talking about the latest fashion or some grand opening
of a local store. Recently reddit had an awakening when the
guys at Point released a youtube video describing how they were able to buy top positions on
the website for relatively cheap. Not only that but were able to manipulate
the conversation about those topics in order to present them in the best light possible. Since reddit also isn’t a news source, it’s
an online community, most people felt that the conversation was relatively safe. There had been rumors of sponsored content
on the website for years, but no real hard evidence until now. So now you not only have to wonder “why
is they telling me this… are they trying to sell me something?” but you also have
to look at your online communities and think “a suspiciously high amount of people seem
to be supporting this product… I wonder why…” And now to quite possibly the worst form of
fake news – Hoaxes. Straight up lies and made up stories. This is the type of fake news that most people
blame for swaying the election. Someone with an agenda could easily make up
a story and before it could be proven false, it would have a million facebook shares and
already be in people’s heads as real. Vice News recently interviewed Paul Horner,
one of the most prolific fake news writers who even has his own Wikipedia page! I do what people would say is Fake News. I write my stories on my sites and then drop
my stories on different facebook groups, most of the pro-Trump groups, that’s who I target
a lot of the times. And then they just pass it around, thinking
that it’s true. This is confirmation bias at its worst. Something you already kind of think might
be true is shown to you by a shared news story on Facebook. And now, it doesn’t matter if it’s true
or not – in your head it is. To look at a non-election example, CNN was
accused of airing 30 minutes of transsexual porn over Thanksgiving weekend. H3h3 did a pretty good synopsis of this whole
event, but the story went viral and appeared on several news websites including Fox News
and the New York Post. Of course, CNN didn’t air porn, millions
of people would have seen it. Instead, these all of these news stories were
based off of one tweet saying “CNN is straight up porn right now”. The account no longer exists probably because
of how much attention and hate they were getting. But by the time it was proven false, people
on reddit and facebook had already been posting about it for days and it had transformed into
30 minutes of transsexual porn. And now that people think it’s funny there
are plenty of photoshopped images of porn movies with the CNN logos around, all claiming
to be a picture of the actual event. This is the danger of hoaxes and fake news. If you were to go up and ask someone “Hey,
remember that time CNN accidentally aired porn for 30 minutes?” They’d probably say yes… even if they
don’t actually remember it which may be even worse – but check out my Memory Errors
video if you want to know more about that. That wass a pretty innocent example though…
so remember that time Hilary Clinton called all of the Bernie supporters and Millennials
a “Bucket of Losers?” Breaking tonight another big story, in addition
to the Trump tape, and this one involves Hilary Clinton. Wikileaks published what it claims are transcripts
from closed door speeches that Hilary Clinton to Wall Street executives. Megyn, Hilary Clinton and her campaign have
repeatedly refused to release the transcripts of her speeches and political analysts say
these leaked excerpts are likely the reason why. Including where she apparently called Bernie
Sanders supporters a bucket of losers. You shouldn’t… because it didn’t happen. The Wikileaks transcript of the Goldman Sachs
speech doesn’t even exist. Wikileaks didn’t put it out, it was faked. It was faked at the same time that Wikileaks
DID release a bunch of DNC emails – but none of them included a Goldman Sachs script. But since it sounded kind of like something
she did actually say about some Trump supporters being in a “Basket of Deplorables” people
ran with it. Only this time, she was attacking her base
rather than her competition. And this is the kind of fake news story that
helped turn the election. Some troll is patting himself on the back
for getting his fake story on Fox News – ignoring whatever kind of damage he is likely causing. But let’s talk about the non-damaging type
of fake news – Satire. Fake news that’s just meant to be funny. Prime example – the Onion. Horrible example – The Daily Show and John
Oliver – those are not satire. Those are real news stories presented in a
funny way. Calling them satire is just a way to dismiss
them. Satire is rarely damaging. It’s mostly just embarrassing when you see
someone sharing news story on facebook thinking it’s true, without realizing that the source
is actually the Onion. But it can be damaging in a social context. The type of thing that makes sweet-apple people
look at sour-apple people and think they must all be idiots. Here’s another non-news example… I had fun tonight, I had fun too. Is that a gun in your pants or are you just
happy to see me? It’s actually a Glock 19. Are you kidding me? My life has been in danger this entire time? I have a thing called a CHL and this is… This video was shared on facebook several
billion times and it’s a prime example of when satire goes wrong. It starts off with a fairly rational complaint. If you’re on a first date with someone in
broad daylight, and you find out they have a gun stuffed down their pants, you have the
right to be a little concerned, maybe even offended. But that’s where the rationalism ends…
then they blow it up by making her anti-America, anti-flag, and generally an idiot. And by extension, this make anyone who is
for even a little gun control look like a bucket of losers. By the way, I’m not entirely sure why this
political commentary needs to be injected into an ad for coffee… I’m totally serious. Satire is supposed to be funny, perhaps provide some
social commentary. But it’s not supposed to push a political
agenda or make one group of people look down on another group of people. That sort of stuff is harmful, because it
makes any sort of compromise impossible. And you’re probably saying to yourself “ugh,
this guy can’t take a joke.” Yes, I can take a joke, I’m very funny,
okay? The problem with satire is that while you
think it’s just a joke, that commercial gets logged into your memory as just another
time a liberal gun hater was being an idiot. We all do this and you can easily do it with
any social or political issue, even when it’s not satire. Whenever you have a stereotype about an entire
group of people, you’ve probably had very few in-person interactions like that – instead
you saw it on tv or heard it through a friend of a friend, and all of those are counted
as memories that happened TO YOU. Anyway, back on topic. So who is to blame for all of this fake news,
sensationalism, and bias? Advertisers? Special interests? The news? Or us? Special Interests and Advertisers obviously
have sinister goals – either selling a product or pushing an agenda. The news is playing along with those goals
because they need to make money. Because if they weren’t flashy and sensational,
we wouldn’t watch. Is it our fault for liking our apples the
way we like them, so we seek out only those apples? Or is it the news’ fault for providing us
with the apples we want, rather than the apples we need? The blame is probably spread around, but the
central conduit is the news. If we can’t trust the news to give us the
stories we need to know, without sensationalizing them or reporting completely false stories,
then we have no good source of information. Journalism used to be a public service, a
noble profession, and a necessary part of our democracy. And over the last few years we have seen that
slowly break down. People still want to trust the news – but
the news is becoming increasingly untrustworthy. So the next time you hear a story about something
that sounds a little too ridiculous to be true… go to Snopes okay? Just go to Snopes. Don’t share it… please. Because now, you know better. If you enjoyed that video or you learned something
make sure to give that like button a click. If you’d like to see more from me, I put out
new videos every weekend, so make sure to falsely share that subscribe button. I’m almost to 500 subscribers so be on the
lookout for some bloopers soon. But in the meantime if you’d like to see one
of my older videos, how about this one?

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