The circulation of fake news in social media and President Trump’s attacks on media have increased people’s trust in reputable news brands which is affecting the journalist’s role as a watchdog in society.
Journalism is beneficial and “… has always entertained as well as informed. Had it not done so, it would not have reached a mass audience.” (Hargreaves, 2014, p. 50). Journalism and media “…comes in many forms-from the entertainment-driven and celebrity-laden to the more serious and politically focused; it is many things to many people.” (Fenton, 2009, p. 12).
This essay will discuss the circulation of fake news in social media, President Trump’s attacks on media and how they have both contributed to people’s increasing trust in reputable news brands, and lastly, how this is affecting the journalist’s role as a watchdog in society. The representation of news and journalism within mass media is used to inform people within a society about the events and issues, and how they affect them. The journalist relies heavily on public participation and their consumption in news and media and so affects the role of the journalist as watchdogs in society who are constantly having to monitor and mediate the information giving society power in their decisions, and holding government to account.
The circulation of fake news in social media has increased due to the advancing technology and the introduction of ‘new media’ which has become a hot issue within society (“Explained: What is Fake news?”, 2018). The internet has change the way society creates, shares and consumes news and media allowing online media users to be given the freedom to write and create their own content, and call themselves ‘acting’ journalists without the proper understanding and knowledge of professional journalism.
The news and media of today have changed particularly with social media which gives people greater access to the latest news, however, with the circulation of fake news becoming more and more evident within society, it can be difficult to make sense of what is real and fake. The increasing circulation of fake news in social media is a threat to the seriousness of professional journalism and media outlets who are made to endorse and spread news. Journalism “…should catalyse considered public discussion of serious public issues.” (Ryfe, 2016, p. 81), or create a public sphere where people are able to openly discuss, reflect and share ideas.
The circulation of fake news obstructs this growth of the public sphere within society. Online media revolutionises journalism and media production as it opens up new opportunities and new possibilities by creating a non-mediated and open online space or public sphere where people of society are able to discuss, share, create and consume, however, online media also holds no regulations to what can be published, shared and consumed which gives people an open invitation to create fake news.
Previously, the news media was seen as a trusted source of information reported by journalists and media outlets who were not regulated by the introduction of ‘new media’ and were obligated to enforce the code of conduct within their practice. People who consume more news are important to the consumption of news, because they are most likely to install the apps, pay for the paper or share on social media, which makes them an important commodity to the authentication and promotion of news brands. The introduction of ‘social media’ and advancing technology has created a sceptical environment surrounding credible journalism causing an increased trust in reputable news brands. The people want believable and accurate news that they can trust.
President Trump’s hard-hitting attacks on media are intended for media and journalists which not only influences the opinion of the people within society, but is also damaging to professional journalism and the institutions that present and host media and news. Trump’s consistency in attacks against the media have discredited journalists and the media. An example of Trump’s hostile attacks on the media comes from one of Trump’s most recent tweets, Trump goes head on in with the media by making bold statements about media saying that they “…never do “fact-checking” anymore, and are only looking for the “kill.” They take good news and make it bad. They are now beyond Fake, they are Corrupt…” (Sullivan, 2019). This blatant disregard and tirade of assumptions about the media are affecting the public opinion, public sphere and the democratic standing of President Trump. The role of the journalist is to inform the public about changes and progress within democracy and politics, in which Trump holds the role of importance as a President and powerful democratic leader. The role of the journalist with concern to the government and politics is to “…hold government accountable, which within the field means to reveal the truth about what government does, is doing, or wishes to do.” (Ryfe, 2016, p. 96). The “News is often claimed to be the life-blood if a democracy…” (Fenton, 2009, p. 12) by providing information and facts to society that gives journalists power through the knowledge obtained. President Trump holds journalists and media accountable as they are strongly described as “the lying media” (Ingram, 2018), these attacks on the media come from Trump’s freedom of speech about his personal perceptions on the media, however, Trump also holds a leadership position of influence, which impacts public opinion and discussion allowing the people’s trust in news media to decline. These tirades dealt by President Trump have caused a declining trust in media, however, increased people’s trust in reputable news brands. Trump’s threats towards journalists and media have affected the perceived credibility of news sites which is causing increased consumption in reputable news brands to bring trustworthy, accurate, honest and fair journalism.
The circulation of fake news in social media and President Trump’s attacks on media have increased people’s trust in reputable news brands, but have also affected the journalist’s role as a watchdog in society. The basic role of the journalists who act as watchdogs in society are to hold those in power to account. “If we are to depend, as we must, on journalists and their consciences…we also need to know more about journalists, to reassure ourselves that they are broadly representative of the rest of us.” (Hargreaves, 2014, p. 101). The News media or ‘press’ was historically referred to as ‘The Fourth Estate’ reflecting the importance of the ‘press’ as a prominent and powerful role, the ‘press’ and journalists who work for the media of ‘The Fourth Estate’ are under strict regard to honesty and truth. The journalist’s role as a watchdog is important, as they monitor and inform the public about issues that arise within society. The role of the journalist and media are important as they “… serve as a watchdog, push people beyond complacency, and offer a voice to the forgotten.” (Kovach & Rosentiel, 2007, p. 18). The circulation of fake news and hostile attacks from powerful Democratic leaders, such as President Trump pose a serious threat to the role of journalists, and in order for journalists and media to combat fake news and hostile attacks, they must create content that is trustworthy and favourable to the consumption within society. The role of the journalist as a watchdog in society is crucial to the functionality of society in order for them to provide information that will both benefit and aid to preserve and protect the people of society. The“…notion that journalists should inform the public imagines journalists as information gatherers and news producers: people who gather and verify facts, write stories and disseminate them to citizens.” (Ryfe, 2016, p. 107) which is an essential practice of watchdog journalism. The people’s trust in journalism and news affects the role of watchdog journalism within society, if the media present society with fake news, people may avoid the news which is needed to inform them about issues and events that are important for functionality. Professional journalism is important to inform and “… provide people with the information they need to be free and self‐governing” (Kovach and Rosenstiel 2007, pp. 12–13) which largely affects the journalist’s role as watchdogs in society.
In conclusion, both the circulation of fake news in social media and President Trump’s attacks on media have increased people’s trust in reputable news brands and thus affecting the journalist’s role as a watchdog in society. The way news and journalism are portrayed within mass media is important to the representation of the journalist’s role as watchdogs in society, and are clearly influenced by the decreasing trust in news and the increasing of people’s trust in reputable news brands. The struggles within journalism as “Struggles over journalism are often struggles over boundaries.” (Carlson & Lewis, 2015, p. 2) are represented through the fake news in social media and Trump’s hostile attacks against the media.
Journalism is a powerful profession as “Journalism “speaks truth to power,” it “afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted,” and it “shines a light in dark places.” (Ryfe, 2016, p. 96) and “…we see that the institutions of journalism set a context for journalists to interact with other people who inhabit public life.” (Ryfe, 2016, p. 114). . The media are created for people in society, they are the ones who pay, subscribe, share and click on the content which is used for their discretion.