I assume that I am not alone in noticing that there are an ever-decreasing number of sources who take the time to create original content, and which take responsible and informed positions on important topics.
The “bastions” of what we consider real journalism, like The Guardian and CNN, have even stopped upholding basic fact-checking and journalistic standards. This first came to my attention in March, 2014, when both of these sources were reporting that a NASA funded study indicated the near-term collapse of civilization. Although CNN has since deleted the article, you can still find the once factually incorrect piece on The Guardian (which has luckily been improved since its initial publishing).
The issue is not that I think that civilization will not collapse, indeed I have argued that such a collapse will become inevitable when biosphere stability is reduced beyond a certain point. The issue here is not the message itself, but the fact that the study was NOT funded by NASA, but instead simply used software provided by NASA. When this story was first going viral in March, I was able to determine within 10 minutes that the study was not undertaken by NASA and that their conclusions were based primarily on incomplete theoretical models. I decided not to write about it. The question becomes: why am I exercising more journalistic integrity than the editors at The Guardian?
CNN appears to have abandoned much of its credibility, allowing the publishing of articles with absolutely no fact-checking (which is admitted in small-print above the article), even publishing disinformation about vaccines within the last month. Now, vaccines are not perfect and do have certain risks, but accusations of corruption based on scientists refusing to confuse correlation and causation is irresponsibly bad taste. Despite the fact that much of the ireport article above is non-factual, CNN continues to reap the web-traffic and take no responsibility for it.
This is happening everywhere, and the reasoning is clear. The problem is that real content, original and well-researched content, is not really appreciated: it gets fewer clicks, reaches fewer, is less exciting, and is ironically less widely accepted than polarized conspiracy bullshit. The cost for creating original content is higher, and the benefits appear to be lower. The sites that produce such content regularly are almost all privately funded while also using click-through ads, and because of their private funding we are forced to question the objectivity of their articles.
When stories are ripped out of the larger context, and major world problems conveniently ignored, all while problems in the proposed solutions are minimized: people are more excited and the business reaps more profit. Ironically, the majority of readers are conditioning the sources to reduce their quality standards.
The saddest part is that many of these sources are not solely dependant on clicks for their survival: many also have corporate sponsors. The issue is that there is no blowback for the publishing of factually incorrect, or incomplete, articles by major media sources: they get the clicks, the funding, without any real risk, or loss. The only risk they perceive is the risk of offending their corporate sponsors and advertisers: not of offending the well-read researcher.
When the money we got per 1,000 clicks (rpm) dropped to a point where we were not even being able to pay server costs, and telling our writers (me and Aaron are the only writers who are not compensated for our writing) that we would have to pay them a little later, we had to start accepting articles that were less important than we wanted. Still, we have always made sure that the articles were based on fact, we still publish about important geopolitical and scientific occurences even though we are well aware that they will likely be a monetary loss. To balance this out, we repeat posts on social media to keep our heads above water.
The irony is that despite the level of criticism we get at Exposing The Truth, we maintain a higher level of fact-checking, more direct public relations, and better quality control standards, than many sources actually earning a hefty profit. One need only look at Buzzfeed (earning around $120 million) or Upworthy to see that little work, manipulative headlines, and primarily unimportant content are the key to financial success. Keep in mind that sites like Upworthy and Buzzfeed create no original content whatsoever. The average internet user is supporting this shift to lower quality, less effort, and the coverage of continually less important topics. This trend is reinforced both by social media algorithms and basic human psychology.
Here is Maddox, explaining some issues with Buzzfeed:
This is a shift that makes me deeply sad, as sad as our continued collective denial of the worldwide environmental crisis on our hands. You, reading this right now, have the capacity to make a difference. You can support honest journalism, think critically about what you read, participate in discussions and debates that help everyone learn more and foster critical thinking. Although my work in social media has taught me that mentioning responsibility is a sure-fire way to reduce post virality: we all share responsibility for what goes on.