Fake news has become a major national talking point since the presidential election. Mainstream media outlets like CNN are facing criticism for their choices and political coverage over the last few years. Meanwhile, so-called fake news sites have gained so much traction on social media that it’s hard for many of us to tell the real stories from the ones written by robots or conspiracy theorists.
This infographic distinguishing between “real” and “fake” news quickly went viral after it appeared on Imgur in December. It currently has more than 3.6 million views and has been shared across Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets.
Most of the people sharing this image seem to think it’s a fairly accurate portrayal of real and fake news outlets, and where these different outlets fall in terms of political “bias.”
The infographic is a useful tool for visualizing all the media outlets in our lives (you’re welcome, visual learners!). However, it also raises some tricky questions about bias and the issue of fake news.
As a journalist, I think this kind of analysis has both positive and negative points. On the one hand, not all news outlets are born equal. Treating all published “news” as equally legitimate, regardless of its source, is extremely dangerous. This is an effective way of showing those important differences, in a format that’s easy to understand.
On the other hand, people seem less and less concerned with the whole idea of “journalistic value” or objectivity. People across the political spectrum seem totally fine with content that just confirms what they already believe, regardless of whether it’s true or where it comes from.
So it’s kind of hard to imagine that many people will be convinced to change their media consumption habits just by looking at these little logos on a screen. This seems even less likely if they already have a negative opinion of the outlets in the middle.
What do you think? Is this an accurate map of the news landscape in America? Is it missing another level of analysis, or does it get the whole thing wrong?
And does any of this even matter, if people are going to keep reading or watching “news” that only helps reinforce what they want to believe?