Don’t blame Facebook for fake news and Trump’s rise
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First of all Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is not responsible for fake news. 

Say what you want about Zuckerberg, the truth is he has brought us all together more than he has torn us apart. 

If you don’t believe that, just remember this column the next time a photo gallery from your Aunt Martha’s surgery to repair her hammer toe clogs your feed just below a post about your “BFF’s” promotion from shift lead to head cashier at Jim’s Burgers.

So, lay off Zuckerberg. OK.

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If you must affix blame for the scourge of fake news and the four years of President Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump renews attacks against Tester over VA nominee on eve of Montana rally Trump submits 2017 federal income tax returns Corker: Trump administration 'clamped down' on Saudi intel, canceled briefing MORE that lie ahead, then blame the mainstream media (or, if you prefer, “lamestream media”). Let’s face it. the major newspapers, TV networks and many once respectable radio outlets have sold out the vocation for clicks and thus deprived viewers, listeners and readers of the sort of information that might have prevented a Clinton candidacy on the left and the rise of the alt-right in the Republican Party.

Lester Holt, host of NBC’s Nightly News, the other night read the teleprompter as an endless stream of car crashes, fires and robberies paraded on screen relegating the real news of the day to other outlets.

As a former newspaper editor, I can tell you this happened gradually. I worked for a corporation that sold out to a New York hedge fund and began calling itself Digital First Media about the time the first millennials got out of college. It was an era when newspapers in America began to tank.

Staff sizes shrank, content shriveled up and bean counters began selling off ink-stained furniture in hopes of maintaining high profit margins. Turns out bright yellow chairs from 1975 aren’t in high demand.

Somewhere along the line there was a “Hey Martha!” moment.

Far from the front lines an executive cowering in a corporate office and scrambling to keep his or her job during the Great Recession came up with a plan to “replace print dollars with digital dimes.” It was a slogan that had the promise of light at the end of a long and very dark death spiral print media circles with thoroughbred horse racing and championship boxing. 

Bearded IPA drinkers were hired as they staggered out of their safe spaces and their dorm rooms. Corporate types hoped a younger, lower-paid staff would understand social media, and bring in new audiences as the older audience began to die and circulation shrunk.

Of course, if someone had thought it through they would have realized these were the same kids who helped the U.S. score lower in science literacy than kids in countries like Estonia, the Netherlands, Finland and Canada. Pure Genius.

It didn’t just happen in print. TV and radio have followed the same pattern – populism over boredom. It’s why Kanye’s meltdown lead the evening news over video of Trump supporters with the National Policy Institute giving a “Sieg Heil” salute as they celebrated his victory in a Washington D.C. restaurant. 

And, voila. 

We have the state of modern media: a morass of popular drivel driven by the knowledge that big data provides. Before anyone cared about metrics, news was a fair, impartial recitation of fact delivered without false equivalences. Now not so much. And you can lay the blame square on the formerly square media. 

When the Washington Post tweets headlines like “Trump just announced he’d abandon the TPP on day one. This is what happens next”, who can blame yokels in Council Bluffs for posting the D.C. Gazette story “Another Person Investigating The Clintons Turns Up Dead” in their Facebook feed. 

And when the Pulitzer Prize-winning Daily Breeze contains a link to click bait like “Police unearth strange new evidence in case of two missing Oklahoma Girls”, which requires a reader to click on 11 separate pages only to find out that the girls have been declared legally dead and there is no new evidence, it’s shouldn’t be that shocking to find that a couple of nerds in nearby Long Beach figured out that their website, LibertyWritersNews.com could make money by writing lead-ins like “NASTY: What Obama Just Said to Trump WILL make you BOIL With Rage!” And get paid more to do it.

Unlike the Daily Breeze or any number of other mainstream media outlets, The D.C. Gazette, which posted its Clinton story on Friday, at least explains itself “This, for those following the ‘fake news’ propaganda coming out of globalists, leftists, and the disgraced legacy media, is why there is a ‘Clinton Body Count.’” 

And, you’ll know where LibertyWritersNews stands when you read the last line in the Obama story: “If you think Obama should just stick to playing golf, Give this a share.” 

Which, when you consider it, isn’t all that different from a Washington Post piece which ran in June. It was more elegantly headlined: “6 in 10 of you will share this link without reading it, a new, depressing study says.”

One can see the bean counters stacking those digital dimes now.

Girardot is an award-winning former editor and columnist with the Los Angeles News Group. He is co-author of true crime tales "A Taste For Murder" and the soon-to-be released “Betrayal in Blue: The Shocking Memoir of the Scandal that Rocked the NYPD.” Follow him on Twitter @FrankGirardot


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