The divisive presidential election this year may be corroding Americans' trust and confidence in the media, particularly among Republicans who may believe the "mainstream media" are too hyperfocused on every controversial statement or policy proposal from Trump while devoting far less attention to controversies surrounding the Clinton campaign. However, the slide in media trust has been happening for the past decade. Before 2004, it was common for a majority of Americans to profess at least some trust in the mass media, but since then, less than half of Americans feel that way. Now, only about a third of the U.S. has any trust in the Fourth Estate, a stunning development for an institution designed to inform the public.
Fake news has also played a large role in the erosion of trust with the media. Traditional media establishments are competing with alternative media, which typically has a looser relationship with the truth than corporate media does.
Melissa Zimdar, associate professor of communication and media at Merrimack College in Massachusetts, created a viral Google Doc with tips on media literacy and how to spot fake news. It's harder than you think.
“Fake, false, regularly misleading sites” which rely on “outrage” using distorted headlines and decontextualized or dubious information in order to generate likes, shares, and profits” (examples: Politicalo, AmericanNews.com)
Websites that may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information (examples: ConsciousLifeNews.com, CountdownToZeroTime.com)
These websites sometimes use clickbait-y headlines and social media descriptions (examples: BipartisanReport.com, TheFreeThoughtProject.com)
Purposefully fake satire/comedy sites that can offer critical commentary on politics and society, but have the potential to be shared as actual/literal news (examples: Christwire.org, TheOnion.com)
Critics reacted to Melissa's guide with one of their own. This list features prominent pillars of the establishment media, like the New York Times, as a distributor of biased and fake news.
Update 5: It should be noted I am not the first person to call out some of these websites. When I first started compiling this specific large list this morning, I did it to poke fun at the ridiculous list compiled by a clueless liberal trying to impose their values onto society. They are free to do so, but I am also free to piss on your “fake news” list and chose what I want to read and what I want to believe.
Critics say the media has pushed just as much fake news and controversy as the alternative media they are trying to skewer. They argue corporate owners have just as much of an agenda as conspiratorial blogs, it's just hidden behind a veneer of false objectivity.
Distrust in media may be a side effect of new trends in journalism. This article goes through four theories of why distrust is on the rise. Here's an interesting point it brings up.
Today’s journalists are more comfortable taking strong positions on partisan issues than they used to be. This is often a good thing. But the increased partisanship of large news outlets might feed a public perception that neutral objectivity doesn’t exist, and therefore, people are entitled to scream “partisanship!” about any viewpoint that they disagree with. The Pittsburgh-Tribune Review recently asked Donald Trump Jr., how he felt that the Pulitzer Prize-winning team at PolitiFact found that 70 percent of his father’s claims were false, more than twice the ratio of Hillary Clinton. Trump’s response: “I would argue that PolitiFact is a very liberal organization.” The shocking thing about this claim is that it’s not shocking, at all. It has become acceptably normal for a politician to call a Pulitzer-Prize winning organization “very biased” if it disagrees with him. There is also no risk in saying so.
Critics from the alternative media argue that the mainstream media is a collection of hypocrites—they engage in the same bad practices they accuse others of. To be fair, most mainstream sources of media are not as conspiratorial as many alternative media sites are.