Shouting into the void about doubtful news since 2011

Excuse my upcoming lament. It’s been a stressful year as I gave up for a while trying to keep a website afloat, and then came back only for it to be the usual situation – be generally ignored and at a loss to do much about it.

There has been so much media attention to news about fake news in the past week. The tone is that it’s worse now than ever, it may have influenced the election, it’s a shame that people are this dumb – really dismal sentiments. I believe you’ll find things are a bit more complicated than that. The saddest part is, though I’m trying to be  positive, I don’t think this surge of interest is doing any good.

People are sharing the news about fake news, there is a twitter hashtag for the topic and it’s in all the major media outlets. The people who are outraged about fake news are probably not the ones who shared it consistently in the past providing a very generous windfall to jerks who think it’s funny to deceive the public. Twitter is less of a threat than Facebook for such stories because the click through rate on Twitter is ABYSMALLY LOW. The tweets disappear lower into your scrolling list instead of being featured by rank and staying visible on your opening page for perhaps more than a day. It’s ephemeral. And the major media outlets aren’t the culprit putting out fake news. I don’t think that those who read slanted and absurd websites with unchecked and often totally fictional content are going to suddenly subscribe to the NY Times or Washington Post. I sure HOPE so, but I doubt it. Never mind that Google and Facebook seem to be just giving lip service to the issue. Why should they care if their revenue stream stays high?

My 5 year old website that focuses on critical views of media stories that are misleading or wrong couldn’t get approval to appear in the Google News stream. I tried at least twice. They provide no explanation. I still can’t figure out why Apple News won’t approve Doubtful News as a publsher even though they send me emails as a publisher. Our stories aren’t shared a lot on FB by influential sources. We only have 10K likes on the page. During this outrage over the lack of public skepticism about news, we’ve not seen a wave of subscribers or followers. We have a nice but small following of people who feel good reading the content but no means to appeal to the wider general public. We are not reaching the people who need to be reached.

I had high hopes, which was my first mistake. I’m kind of down about hitting obstacle after obstacle with efforts to promote and expand Doubtful News when people seem to be so eager to find any solution to pseudo-news. What can I do that I haven’t done? How do you get any respect around here? How can I be heard beyond these seemingly soundproof walls? Walls in which I feel I’m speaking to right now.

I don’t think the general population cares a whit about fake news or truth anymore. The majority of the population doesn’t want to make any effort, they want information served to them. How can we get in on that? It’s going to take a major force in media, a sea change, in order to effectively marginalize garbage information and provide more accurate stuff. Many people don’t know that since the dawn of newspapers, there have been deliberate manufactured fake news stories, scandalous but baseless gossip, and lurid tales of depraved characters. It’s always been and will ever be. We have to find a way to push that content lower and raise good content higher. That’s going to take more of an effort than anemic hang-wringing on display this week.

Some innovative hackers have made a good start. Google and Facebook haven’t contacted them about it.

How do sites like mine who want to provide the right information get any respect around here? We don’t.

7 thoughts on “Shouting into the void about doubtful news since 2011

  1. I’m sorry Sharon but rational, sane, non-click-bait sites are not what the public wants. Thinking am hard wurk.

  2. Well, I clicked through a Twiiter link, so it’s not *hopeless*. (grin)

    I think you’ve identified a big part of the problem, but it’s not , as you seem to imply, new. People have always wanted their news served to them. What’s new is simply the degrer to which they can select sources that conform to their pre-existing predelictions.

    Seeking falsification is uncomfortable – which is probably why so many don’t understand how science works as a discipline. It’s so much more pleasant to seek confirmation.

  3. I shared you post over at G+, Facebook, and Twitter. Although I may not agree with everything you have to say, I agree with much of it. Keep writing, we, your friends, need you.

  4. Emotion sells. Facts don’t.

    We need to inspire with facts just as deeply as lies inspire fear, hatred, etc.

  5. Yeah, this is something I’ve thought about a lot too. It’s the chief reason why I haven’t yet gathered the courage to start my own blog – the fear that it will be pointless. There are many different ideas I have on the topic, and I could probably write a comment as long as the article itself. But there is one question I haven’t yet figured out, and perhaps therein lies a piece of the puzzle.

    The question is – how can Joe Average distinguish fact from fiction? Note that we’re talking about someone who doesn’t have an extensive logic training, academic experience, or any expertise about the question at hand. Suppose Joe is an accountant and he’s reading stuff about how great homeopathy is. What in it all should raise a red flag for him?

    Because it seems to me that to be able to at least start to detect bullshit, there’s quite a list of prerequisite skills and knowledge. Things that most people don’t have – and some of them perhaps even shouldn’t have (as in – not everyone needs to be a chemist). That, or they need to spend a lot of effort researching to get this knowledge, which nobody ain’t got the time for.

    The other solution is to defer to authorities, but that kinda makes you feel like the control has been taken out of your hands. People want to make their own decisions, especially about issues that deeply affect them personally – like healthcare or politics.

    So – what’s the solution to this? How do you make a system that allows people to distinguish truth from lies without having an expertise in that area, and without blindly following what some authority figure(-s) tells them?

  6. Over 40 years ago my granddad told me that when reading or listening to the news you should always remember half of it will be a lie, 90% of what is left will be made up and you have to take the last 10% with a pinch of salt. 🙂

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