You Can’t Trust That Liberal Media, Right?

The Liberal Media or is it?

“The lyin’ liberal media!”

“You can’t trust that liberal media!”

“It’s the media’s fault!”

You hear this all the time, right? I can’t even begin to count how often I hear, read, and have people look me in the eye and say this. It’s just become a mantra.

And what the mind does with a mantra is make it true.

But my question always is: Which media? What sources are you reading/listening to/watching? The “media” is not a homogenous group.

THE METEORIC RISE OF FAKE NEWS

Leading up to this election, the amount of lies shared on social media was startling. Shocking would be more apropos. Just after the election, the Today show aired a segment about misinformation shared on FB, and how it allowed fake news to reach millions of people.

Traditional news sources followed suit with similar stories all over the place.

More than 40 percent of American adults get news on Facebook, according to a report published by the Pew Research Center and the Knight Foundation.

Couple that with all the fake news on social media, and the implication is more than a bit scary.

Doesn’t it frighten you?

Stories that went viral (and have been repeated to me ad nauseum) about issues as diverse as gay wedding vans, Obama invalidating the election (which then even morphed into his intention to become dictator), and the ban of the national anthem were, guess what? All made up—and by the same man.

Paul Horner, the genius behind a Facebook fake-news empire, makes his living off viral news hoaxes. He convinced the Internet that he’s British graffiti artist Banksy. He also published the fake news of a Yelp vs. “South Park” lawsuit last year, which went viral.

And he makes a ton of money doing so.

But that was then, and of course, this is now. Through this election, Horner found a huge audience for his fake news. And found it far broader reaching.

When asked by The Washington Post, “Why did something like your story about Obama invalidating the election results (almost 250,000 Facebook shares, as of this writing) go so viral?”

Horner responded:

“Honestly, people are definitely dumber. They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks anything anymore — I mean, that’s how Trump got elected. He just said whatever he wanted, and people believed everything, and when the things he said turned out not to be true, people didn’t care because they’d already accepted it. It’s real scary. I’ve never seen anything like it.

“I think Trump is in the White House because of me. His followers don’t fact-check anything — they’ll post everything, believe anything. His campaign manager posted my story about a protester getting paid $3,500 as fact. Like, I made that up. I posted a fake ad on Craigslist.”


~ Horner

Did you get that? The person who duped millions of people with fake news just called those citizens dumb.

Often I ask folks where they get their news. Especially when they quote to me such stories (which happens quite a bit).

“I do my research,” is the most repeated answer.

“Well, where?”

And almost every time, I get in return a blank stare.

I was talking with a friend a while back, who literally said, “I don’t have time to research. I get my information from FB, and from (insert whichever slanted cable news channel here).” And then she railed about the “media.”

Do you see the irony?

Blame the “media” for one’s own lack of information?

Couple that with half of the country mistrusting government and institutions in general, and no wonder the major news organizations have been caught square in the crosshairs.

But does that make them lying cheats?

THE MEDIA’S TRUE ROLE: WATCHDOGS

This maligning of the media has always been with us, to some extent. A century ago, writers penned exposes of corruption in business and government, arousing public opinion and helping spur Progressive-Era reforms. Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 called them muckrakers, after the Man with the Muck-rake in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress.

The point being, when reputable sources publish stories that don’t reflect well on one side, or harm their agendas, that side calls them liars.

Newspapers came to prominence in the first place in order to be the watchdogs of business and government. You know—to keep them from running roughshod over the citizens’ interest.

Now, full disclosure here—I was once a journalist. I was a reporter and then editor of my university newspaper. I worked for the local city paper as well.

I cut my teeth in the era of Woodward and Bernstein. Don’t you shudder to think where we would be without them?

So when the “liberal media” label gets slapped onto traditional news sources, well, even that gets murky when you look inside them.

THE MAKEUP OF REAL MEDIA

Reporters, by their very natures, are idealists. Out for Truth, Justice, and the American Way. That just comes with the territory as to even do the job, you have to be motivated by “the rest of the story,” as Paul Harvey would say. Otherwise, no one would work those insane hours for such little pay.

And I can promise that the vast majority of reporters (and all the ones I knew), were out for the truth. It was drilled into us that truth was the only thing of importance. And our jobs depended on getting it right.

Editors at traditional news sources aren’t quite as starry eyed. They’re older, more seasoned, somewhat jaded. And guess what? They make sure all facts are checked. And not only that, but that sources are vetted and curated and cross-checked as well. That they can prove what they print. Their jobs depend upon it.

And publishers themselves? Well, they’re quite conservative (almost all are, anyway). Because their concern is the bottom line—dollars and cents. You aren’t a publisher in the traditional sense unless you have big bucks to begin with. And if what they publish isn’t provably true, the cost can be in the millions.

So, it’s tough to even slap one label on any individual news outlet.

For each rung on the above ladder, however, the truth matters. Libel is very real. And the funny thing about folks saying a newspaper is lying about them? I’m not seeing libel lawsuits filed . . . Because libel actually has to be proven.

MEDIA BIAS

Do some outlets have a leaning bias? Yes. But then, if you read them often, you keep that in mind. This plays out in which stories are run, however, not in how those stories are written. The truth and facts and threat of libel keep all reputable news outlets in line.

Cable news networks are often entirely biased (and have their share of made-up stuff). But you know that, right? You know if you watch Fox News, you’re going to get a conservative bias. On MSNBC, a liberal slant.

But you know that when you turn them on, right?

Does that mean all reporting is biased?

That’s a big fat no.

WHAT, THEN, IS REAL NEWS?

Wonderful, legitimate media is out there. In-depth investigative reporting—you know the old-fashioned kind, where vetting facts actually matters.

The thing is, in today’s climate of blaming all institutions (throw the bastards out!), huge numbers of people have gotten confused by what’s real, fact-checked news and what’s fake.

With the Internet and social media, that’s really easy to do.

In September, Newsweek published an in-depth, investigative, lengthy, well-researched article entitled: “How the Trump Organization’s Foreign Business Ties Could Upend U.S. National Security”

The story was written by Kurt Eichenwald, a New York Times bestselling author of three books. He previously worked for twenty years at the Times as an investigative reporter, columnist and senior writer. He is a two-time winner of the George Polk Award for excellence in journalism and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2000 and 2002.

In other words, this isn’t some guy writing fake news from his basement, slapping it on his own website, and posting it on FB.

This is a long-time respected journalist, for whom the truth is paramount. His story is footnoted, his facts are checked.

Now, my point in this is not anything about Trump or the election. But rather, the reaction on social media to it.

A FB friend posted this story, and I’m still shocked by the responses. Many of which circled right back to my opening of this post:

“You can’t trust the liberal lying media!”

Newsweek. The liberal lying media.

Can you see where we might have gotten a hair off track here?

Yes, fake news abounds these days.

And there are tons of television and radio shows making up stuff all the time. I mean, Rush Limbaugh even calls himself an entertainer. I listen to him now and then, chiefly to hear what spin I’m then going to then be hearing from people wide and far.

Suffice to say, Limbaugh never lets a fact get in his way.

And he’s by no means alone.

SO WHAT’S THE SOLUTION?

The main point here being, the standard: It’s the media’s fault! is only true if you let it be. Good, hard-hitting, fact-filled journalism is out there. It’s all of our responsibilities to find it, rather than listening to the talking head of our choice . . .

And yep, real news isn’t as sexy as sensationalized, made-up stuff. People are far less likely to click on a story about their local city council dealing with waste-water issues as opposed to the latest celebrity scandal.

But what’s more worthy of your time?

That old adage holds true—perhaps even more so today with the lightning speed of social media:

“A lie circles the globe 3 times before the truth has a chance to get started.”

Don’t be a victim of those lies. Don’t be a victim of someone telling you what to think.

Don’t let someone else’s mantra teach you that a lie is true.

The world won’t change unless we do. An informed citizenry is the best defense against tyranny.

Be informed. Do your own research, via reputable sources. Think for yourself. Make up your own mind.

Be the solution.

About the Author Susan Malone

Award-winning writer and editor Susan Mary Malone is the author of the novels, "I Just Came Here to Dance" and "By the Book," as well as four co-authored nonfiction books, including "What’s Wrong with My Family?" and many published short stories. Forty-plus Malone-edited books have now sold to traditional publishers.

follow me on:

Leave a Comment:

69 comments
Teresa Salhi says November 30, 2016

I am not a big news follower. I have been aware for quite some time that you cannot believe what you read, trust what is in the food you eat, and that we are bombarded with prescription medicine we don’t need and most illnesses are product induced. But I do see the news at times and the most recent was the US Presidential elections. I am still not quite sure to make of all that.

Reply
    Susan Malone says November 30, 2016

    It can all really be confusing, can’t it, Teresa? But real news is truly out there. And as you mentioned about food and meds and all that entails, your best defense is knowing what you’re consuming.

    Reply
Kathy @ SMART Living 365 says November 30, 2016

Hi Susan! This is an EXCELLENT post and I intend to share it around because more of us need to read this. I always TRY to make sure that I don’t share things unless I at least check them with snopes but I find so many others don’t care. As you say, the truth isn’t as sexy or shocking so it seldom makes the rounds. Hopefully this post will prove that wrong. Thank you for writing it. ~Kathy

Reply
    Susan Malone says November 30, 2016

    Thank you, Kathy! And isn’t snopes a gift 🙂 I appreciate the shares!

    Reply
Marielle Altenor says November 30, 2016

A few years ago I shared a story on my Facebook page. I didn’t do my research and just shared it and commented how disgusted I was about the situation. Only to find out that the story was fake. I felt duped. Since then, I always do my research before I share stories that may or may not be real.

Reply
    Susan Malone says November 30, 2016

    Nothing like that happening to get your attention, Marielle! Good for you!

    Reply
Alicia says November 30, 2016

I am thankful for many reasons that we do not have cable TV. So, I have not seen the news aside from when we went out of town last week for Thanksgiving, in several years aside from a few news websites. I don’t believe everything I read either.

Reply
    Susan Malone says November 30, 2016

    More and more folks are opting out of cable, Alicia. Interesting, no?

    Reply
Christine Tatum says November 30, 2016

Well-written piece!! I watch less and less news these days. It is so hard to know what to believe anymore.

Reply
    Susan Malone says December 1, 2016

    It does get confusing, doesn’t it, Christine. But finding reputable sources helps!

    Reply
Tamuria says November 30, 2016

Very scary to think so many people are getting their ‘news’ from Facebook, Susan. I was a journalist too, in a time when everything was double checked and we all believed in revealing the truth and exposing injustices. I agree there are still true sources out there, but they are not as easy to find as they once were. Hubby is still a news editor and we see all the time how facts have been sacrificed by cost cutting and time demands. I agree with you, it is up to us to find the reputable sources to be well informed and therefore make a difference.

Reply
    Susan Malone says December 1, 2016

    It’s different looking from the inside out, isn’t it,Tamuria. And finding reputable sources is paramount. Funny how it all comes down to the bottom line too!

    Reply
Brown Rhonda says November 30, 2016

That’s why I rarely share anything, especially “breaking news” stuff that is on Facebook. It’s kinda one of those “don’t believe everything you read”

Reply
Beverley Golden says November 30, 2016

Bravo for writing this piece, Susan! I have been having conversations with my social art group about ‘what is truth’ anymore. It is almost a challenge to get the facts to discern the truth. I just read this article on ThinkProgress that I believe you will like. Unfortunately your comment section won’t let me post the URL. Will send it to you separately. It is a bit scary, as it sounds like this fake news phenomena is carefully orchestrated for a specific reason. We all must be responsible for ‘doing our homework’ and also trusting our own inner compass. It is going to get really interesting in a short amount of time.

Reply
    Susan Malone says December 1, 2016

    Finding facts and discerning truth really can be a challenge, can’t it, Beverley. I’m eager to see the ThinkProgress piece! Thank you.

    Reply
Heather says November 30, 2016

I don’t really get to watch the news much, and when I do I’m disgusted by the lies. It is very scary.

Reply
    Susan Malone says December 1, 2016

    It really can be scary, Heather. Which is why finding reputable news sources truly matters!

    Reply
Lorii Abela says November 30, 2016

That is the sad reality. Yes, we have quick access to information and that made the old fashioned research and verifying passe for most who just wants served on a silver platter information. Everyone just clicks their way away in social media which is inundated by fake news. This is the modern world of free content writing. I just talked to a friend last weekend and she has a call center. She said that those with money are willing to spread wrongful information in their favor.

Reply
    Susan Malone says December 1, 2016

    Sometimes I sit back and wonder how the heck we got here, Lorii. It wasn’t that long ago that telling lies was seen as a sin, and those who did it were ostracized. Now, it does feel like the norm. And ugh on the call center. But not surprising. Which takes us back to researching what’s truth and what’s not.

    Reply
Chelley Martinka says November 30, 2016

This is really interesting. There is “fake” news from more than just the liberals. I think we need a reset and I am glad to hear that people are focusing more on recognizing false stories and researching more.

Reply
    Susan Malone says December 1, 2016

    That’s the key, isn’t it, Chelley–to find what’s actual truth!

    Reply
Dana says November 30, 2016

Great thoughts. This election was so frustrating for me because so much fake news was being shared by the same people claiming the media was “biased.” If you are critical enough of a reader to recognize bias in reporting, that’s great. But it should transfer to being able to spot outright fakes. Otherwise, all that seems to be going on is trusting anything that reaffirms what you already believe.

Reply
    Susan Malone says December 1, 2016

    You hit the core of it, Dana–trusting whatever you already believe. We have to challenge ourselves to see other perspectives–and research whether those facts are accurate as well.

    Reply
Sonya Kolodziejska says December 1, 2016

I am not a big news follower, but even i know you don’t believe everything you read. Papers etc fluff everything out to make a good story.
People need to be a little more clever in what they share and read.

Reply
Meghan says December 1, 2016

I could certainly write a 10,000 word response to your article on this topic! I watched nearly all of my friends post outright lies against Trump on Facebook during this past election. When confronted with facts, including Snopes debunking, they didn’t care. They were supporting their personal ideologies & bias to sway opinion. There is no ‘liberal media’ in my opinion because all traditional media is liberal. Journalism is dead when media outlets are owned by corporations and have agendas to follow. In a world where Bill Mayer, The View, The Colbert Report, & The Daily News are considered reputable sources for facts, it’s an uphill battle to convince people what is real versus what is opinion/satire. I’ve resorted to video as my fact checker. For example, did Hillary Clinton spend two weeks berating Trump for saying he wouldn’t necessarily accept the election results? Yes, she did, its on video. Did Trump say he hates Mexicans, homosexuals, & Muslims? No, I couldn’t find that video–but I could find the media’s opinion that he said that. I do fact check, but it’s getting increasingly difficult and cumbersome to do so. The average person doesn’t care, isn’t interested, and has no time for fact checking. These are my opinions of course. 😉 I appreciate your article for exposing how fake news and people with unsavory objectives have polluted society. It’s disappointing indeed.

Reply
    Susan Malone says December 1, 2016

    Okay, I’m just stopped by folks thinking the list of shows you mentioned are real news! That says it all, doesn’t it, Meghan. And I hear you–fact checking takes a lot of time. But as you found, it’s imperative we do so to get to the truth.

    Reply
Cathy O says December 1, 2016

Great piece Susan, about such an important topic. We used to watch the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and it was great because he usually looked at both sides. Now that Lehrer is gone it is more one sided but the best we can find, so we are back to watching it. It seems better to get the news compressed into 1 hour a day instead of seeing all the crazy stuff on FB. I personally think Snopes is great but boy does it make people upset when I tell them via Snopes that they’ve been duped. The first time it happened to me – that I posted something unreal and someone informed me of the fact – I was grateful that they told me. But some people take it far too personally when informed they’ve been duped. I asked one friend if she ever checked things out first and she said – no, if it seemed real she just posted it. It’s hard to see all the crazy stuff and not comment . . . so some people I have just had to turn off.

Reply
    Susan Malone says December 1, 2016

    I think that goes back to people wanting to shore up their beliefs, rather than see things from a different perspective (even if it’s truth). And I loved Jim Lehrer too. Great points, Cathy!

    Reply
Crystal says December 1, 2016

I think everyone who curates and shares content from others has a duty to share items from reliable sources. I’m even hesitant to share articles from sources that have spammy or sensational links to other articles at the bottom of their posts. We can all contribute to a better social space by being judicious with what we share!

Reply
    Susan Malone says December 1, 2016

    Can I appoint you monitor of shared news, Crystal? I truly love what you’re saying here!

    Reply
Lori English says December 1, 2016

Susan.
A great article that really I agree with that there is people that tell the truth and have the correct facts. It helps me to critically think about others issues that are important for me to discuss and learn from to make sure that my knowledge base is full.
Lori English

Reply
    Susan Malone says December 1, 2016

    You hit the nail, Lori–“to critically think.” Everything starts with that!

    Reply
Clive Maloney says December 1, 2016

I tend to question a lot of the news I read on social media. No doubt some of the lies and untruths get through. For the most part, I take my news from the radio. Even then I think you still have to question people’s bias.

Reply
    Susan Malone says December 2, 2016

    Yep, there’s lots of bias out there, Clive. And questioning the source is always a good idea!

    Reply
    Susan Malone says December 2, 2016

    So true, Clive–you always have to question the source. That’s the key!

    Reply
michelle mink says December 1, 2016

I agree completely that if you don’t do your research you can’t blame the media. I really wish fake new sites could be banned.

Reply
    Susan Malone says December 2, 2016

    I wish fake news would be banned too, Michelle. Our best defense is to not read/share them!

    Reply
Rachel Lavern says December 1, 2016

I have an uncle who has always referred to the masses as ‘stupid and dumb’ and he used to annoy me to no end when he classified people that way. But I have come to believe he was right over the last few years…there are a lot of very dumb people breathing. They read lies and spread lies like wild fire and very few people even think of validating.

Reply
    Susan Malone says December 2, 2016

    It’s distressing, isn’t it, Rachel. But if enough folks actually do validate what they’re reading, we can help change that tide.

    Reply
Ave says December 1, 2016

Whenever I find a news that interest me, I try to read more on the topic and get information from different channels. On these days, it’s really difficult to know what’s true and what’s not.

Reply
    Susan Malone says December 2, 2016

    It is, Ave. That’s why respected traditional news sources are still the best way to go.

    Reply
Lisa Rios says December 1, 2016

I really get upset with everything that is happening around the media houses these days. When you hear a news you are forced to double check with other news channels to confirm the authenticity of the same which is quiet disgusting as others report it the other way! This happens in Social Media too and I make sure to confirm before sharing it.

Reply
Tami Qualls says December 2, 2016

The world is full of liars. I stopped believing the media for the most part a long time ago.

Reply
    Susan Malone says December 2, 2016

    Depends upon which media, Tami. There are still respected, well-written, vetted sources out there.

    Reply
Jackie Harder says December 2, 2016

You’re singing my song, girl. I was a reporter/editor/publisher at the nation’s second-largest media group for 30 years. One thing I learned: There is no such thing as “objective,” because we all bring our experience, beliefs, education, etc., to the table. But there is such a thing as “balance,” and that means getting at least 2 sides to every story. Re news sources: When I see people who say they get their news from Facebook, I want to slit my wrists.

Reply
    Susan Malone says December 5, 2016

    Okay, Jackie, you just gave me a much-needed laugh this morning! But I know the wrist-slitting feeling. And I love you pointing out the difference in objective and balance!

    Reply
Robin says December 2, 2016

Great post! Hubby and I have recently news show hopped, and is truly mind-numbing. Turn TV on in the morning and listen to station a report latest Trump information, and hop to other channel for the same information, presented from a different view point. Humorous!

Reply
Joan M Harrington says December 2, 2016

Hi Susan,

LOVED your post! Very well written and right to the point! I myself do do my research and have come to realize, like you said, that not everything that is shared on social media is indeed true.

So much goes viral BEFORE it is proven as a fact…..seems so silly to believe something BEFORE you find out if it is true or not 😉

I agree, do your research and make up your own mind 🙂

Great share!

Reply
    Susan Malone says December 5, 2016

    Ain’t it just the truth, Joan–all the stuff going viral before it’s even fact checked. Makes me a bit nuts. Lol. And these days, it’s just not that difficult to fact check!

    Reply
Jennifer Quisenberry says December 2, 2016

I really and truly believe that the fake news is largely responsible for the election results.

Reply
    Susan Malone says December 5, 2016

    Truly seems to be, doesn’t it, Jennifer. The world champion fake-news poster believes that’s the case too.

    Reply
CourtneyLynne says December 2, 2016

Unfortunately I feel all news is fake these days :-/ even the Main Stream media is bought out…. I write for several big name publications and I was definitely not allowed to give my 100% opinions throughout the whole campaign because it didn’t support the agenda of the publications :-/ then don’t even get me started on fb news lol… uhhhhh so sad that this is the world today

Reply
    Susan Malone says December 5, 2016

    That brings us back to reading true, long-established, traditional news sources, no, Courtney? The ones that truly strive for balanced reporting.

    Reply
Candess M. Campbell says December 3, 2016

So often people will align with the media that supports what they want to believe and bypass the truth. What I want to believe is the truth, or as close to it as we can come. When I find news on FB I check it out with Snopes.com. During the election I watched the The Fox News Channel and MSNBC and C-Span to see what both sides were saying. We can spin anything. In this election though the truth was there and those who were fearful, angry and dis-empowered aligned with a false prophet. There is a part of me that wants to watch them suffer the consequences of their behavior, but the reality is, the fear-based choice will affect us all. I trust that the breaking down of America will enable us to re-build even stronger. Not under the new administration but the reaction to this blunder by both parties will inspire them to step up and hopefully clean up their ways and bring integrity to America.

Reply
    Susan Malone says December 5, 2016

    I was having this exact conversation this morning, Candess–that so much of the issue is that people will watch, read, listen to ONLY that which supports their beliefs. And then hold tenaciously to those beliefs despite all truth presented. And isn’t it amazing to see the different spins on the same piece of “news.” But so eye opening as well.
    I love your optimism as well!

    Reply
Karen says December 3, 2016

I usually try to read two different sides of an important event or new story. That way when you read or listen to both sides it helps to know what might be “true”. However I am in the midst of crazy “reporting”. I live near the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. Wow are their crazy stories on all sides of the issue. Most of what is happening to those of us that live here are never mentioned, just the crazy made up stuff, yet people are blindly believing all of it. Hard to stay trusting of any news when it happens, oh and it is happening on all levels of reporting.

Reply
    Susan Malone says December 5, 2016

    You know, I was just thinking about the Dakota Pipeline issue, Karen, and how the coverage has been pretty much all headline-making. And, nothing truly in-depth.
    Perhaps you could fill that void!

    Reply
Joyce Hansen says December 5, 2016

I never read any of the FB news stories unless it involves cats or dogs. After all, it’s social media. Any small town will tell you their social media is gossip. On national issues, it’s big time gossip. If you didn’t figure out there was a pandering to magnified fears, you need to go back and take a civics class. O’yeah, schools don’t have the budget to teach civic classes any more.

Reply
    Susan Malone says December 6, 2016

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had that thought, Joyce–where are civics classes when we need them! Wouldn’t that be helpful!

    Reply
Mindy Iannelli says December 6, 2016

It really is scary how people just pass on bogus news without thinking about it. You would think that everyone would know by now that you can’t trust everything you read!

Reply
    Susan Malone says December 7, 2016

    But we do have trusted sources of news, and it amazes me how those have gotten lumped into the fake ones!

    Reply
Tandy Elisala says December 6, 2016

Susan, this is the best article on media I’ve seen in awhile. It’s amazing to me that lies will circle the globe 3x more than the truth will. That’s very interesting to me. Social media can be a good thing, yet, it has created a sense of laziness in a way. We don’t fact check. We believe what we see on the screen. It’s sad… I stay away from the news when possible.

Reply
    Susan Malone says December 7, 2016

    I do think you hit on one very real key, Tandy–social media has made us lazy. We lull ourselves into thinking we’re aware and informed, rather than doing our due diligence! Hopefully we’ll do our homework and become truly more informed and aware.

    Reply
Katarina Andersson says December 6, 2016

Well, this is a dilemma today. One would think it is easy to spot lies and instead go for news based on hard facts. But then it is not always so easy, and critical thinking is not always easy either. Let’s hope people get more conscious and realize what they are reading…or who they are voting for…

Reply
    Susan Malone says December 7, 2016

    Exactly, Katarina. Critical thinking has truly gone by the wayside. It’s up to all of us to bring it back.

    Reply
Add Your Reply