Fake News and the Future of Journalism

By Markus Weinzinger

Now, this may be a touchy topic, but, in the name of truth and clarity, I hope to offer a reasonable, basic understanding of the label “fake news.” The term’s indulgent use by President Trump sparked instantaneous outrage by corporate news networks and subscribers alike. So, what does he mean exactly by calling out the likes of CNN, MSNBC, and other news media?

Put simply, “fake news” means that a story was partially (or entirely) fabricated, or it was morphed with bias along political party lines. It’s no surprise that the overwhelming majority of mainstream and corporate news media reported with enmity to Mr. Trump. Even right-wing Fox News contrasted with Trump at one point. However, this “epidemic” of fake news doesn’t just apply to politics. Noted by a 1993 incident, NBC admitted to deliberately rigging a demonstration showcasing the easy combustibility of a GM car model in a crash. Besides settling an apology on national television, the news outlet settled a lawsuit with GM. However, the blame of spiked surety and tampered truth splashes on magazines, too.

Entertainment magazines and tabloids were dubious before, but now their claims of objective reporting rise to another infernal level. Among these culprits are pop culture-infatuated brands like MTV News, BuzzFeed News, and Rolling Stone. The latter featured an episode where a court jury found an article written by a Rolling Stone reporter who defamed a University of Virginia dean with a false gang rape story. MTV News routinely receives negative feedback from YouTubers who charge its hosts as explicitly racist, although the hosts and featured guests consist primarily of minority groups in politically correct ethos.

The reality indicates that now —especially since this past election cycle— the American population has grown increasingly distant from the headlines of mainstream media. A recent Gallup poll found that as of 2015, only 40% trusted the press, down from 51% in 2000. Even more striking, only 36% of those aged 18-49 held fidelity to the news. Judith Miller, Pulitzer Prize-winning former reporter for the New York Times, explains:

“The industry has become politically polarized and, in the highly competitive age of multiple 24-hour cable news channels and the Internet, it’s under severe financial pressure. And this compounds an even deeper problem –failing journalistic standards.”

Miller recalled back in the 1950s, journalists were “committed to producing ‘objective’ journalism –fact-based stories independent of the government and of political parties.” Furthermore, opinions were supposed to be confined to editorial and op-ed pages.

“That world no longer exists,” remarked Miller sadly.

From the economic standpoint of keeping a private company afloat, Miller noted that according to Pew Research, print revenue from newspaper sales plummeted from $47 billion in 2006 to $16 billion in 2014. “Digital sales haven’t come close to making up the difference,” added Miller.

The new economic battleground in journalism lies in the Internet, specifically in social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook. Miller finds that mainstream sites have now employed a new system of reporting, reliant on eyeballs, clicks, and edgy or outrageous content. One new addition to the lexicon of cyberspace is “clickbait.” Clickbait is like the cash crop of these mainstream media sites. It uses an outrageous picture or thumbnail and title (like a photo of a man covered in bees or a dog standing on two legs) as the bait to get users to their content; even if the startling material turns out to be duller and boring.

Worse, the political dichotomy of news hurts both sides. Based on her long experience in journalism, Miller concluded that the overwhelming majority of reporters identify on the political left. This means that conservatives are incentivized to seek the networks that dispense complementary ideological feed. This leaves little room for moderates and independents, who teeter on the lean political and cultural fulcrum. The long lasting effects of divided media spell disaster for society.

Perhaps the most infamous example of fake news appeared near the turn of the century in the headquarters of the New York Journal. Tensions were peaking between the United States and Spain. Then it exploded in the disaster of the USS Maine in Cuba’s Havana Harbor. The Journal accused the Spanish for the fate of the warship, and it wasn’t long before anti-Spanish sentiment festered in Americans. However, the direct causes for the incident were never solidified. It wasn’t until long after that the actual cause of the sinking of the Maine that the most likely trigger was a burst boiler. Nevertheless, the ink of yellow journalism stained America with the blood of fallen soldiers and reputation. Such is the power of journalism in controlling the fates of nations, and the minds of millions into a singular tunnel vision.

What happens when opinion is split into few major perspectives? Self-reliance degrades into conformity; individuality becomes mob mentality. With no moderation, there is no relaxed room for a healthy intellectual debate. It’s by the consolidation of views that a centralized governor can take advantage of ill-informed people. Diversity of opinion and speech, as noted in the Supreme Court case Sweezy v. New Hampshire, is imperative to a civilization’s survival, otherwise “it will stagnate and die.” How can Americans seek and find the truth?

It is my belief that the face of journalism is undergoing a radical change in structure. Since the end of the objective period after the 1950s, corporate news media now publishes what sells, not necessarily what tells. By that I mean that since these news outlets are businesses, they will need to do whatever it takes to claim their lifeblood subscribers. Corporate media has taken a huge blow, and the gaping hole of mainstream knowledge left by their flaws will be filled by a more qualified type of journalism. The new journalism will be tailored to the necessities of the average Joe or Jane. Reporters will be engaged in the heat of the action, not slouched in their office high above the skyline of average Americans. Citizen journalists of every point in the spectrum of politics and cultural beliefs will be the guiding light to a self-reliant American population.

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The Freshman Experience

By Michael Staudt

Freshman year in high school can be very intimidating or amazing. In movies, freshman in high school usually are not treated well, or are simply bullied to extreme levels. However, I am going to test these theories of freshman year experiences, here at TCP.

Throughout interviews I conducted with several freshman, I got one result. Most of them enjoyed the school and would never want to go back to their previous school. Most of the freshman I interviewed were nervous about the homework they had heard about at the open house. However, once they started to work out the homework throughout the school year, most of them agreed that it was a decent amount.

“I love TCP! I feel like I fit in more here then at my old school,” said Isabel Garcia.

“I love the teachers and the people at TCP,” stated Arath Aguayo.

Many of the freshman interviewed also expressed a feeling of fascination with the experiences they had had this year. Many of them had gained more friends then they had at their old school and liked the teachers more here.

To conclude, many of the freshmen attending TCP have expressed fascination and happiness during their freshman year. Some of them are a bit anxious about the sophomore semester, but are excited about the new classes that are available. Personally being a freshman, I believe that my freshman year has been enthralling, electrifying, and joyful. I am glad that I am attending TCP and along with other freshman, will remember this year for decades to come.

Soon My Thought Will Arise

By Aiden Montgomery

 

Time slowly moving forward,

I look at the gears insignificant in size,

My mind searches for a perfect word,

Soon my thought will arise.

 

I look at the gears insignificant in size,

Always spinning with no stop like a rushing herd,

Soon my thought will arise,

But still there is no word.

 

Always spinning with no stop like a rushing herd,

Time slips through its hands,

But still there is no word,

No one in my mind understands.

 

No conclusion to my thoughts,

Time slowly moving forward,

I’m searching for an answer as my mind slowly rots,

My mind searches for a perfect word.

 

Soon my thought will arise.

 

The Humanity Is Being Lost

By Patricia Azevedo

The humanities have been an important part of human life for all known history. Ever since the first words were spoken, they were used for storytelling. Ever since dyes were created, they were used to create stark images on the walls of caves. There is no place in society where the humanities do not roam, no time during which you might find yourself without them.

Yet, as a line of occupation, there are very few who would continue to follow this calling. According to an article done by David Brooks (Brooks), in the past 50 years the number of people going into the humanities in college has halved. When that number was previously only 14 percent, that leaves seven percent of today’s youth going into the humanities, and expecting to come out the other side.

A good deal of people would have the job market explain this. In today’s capitalist US most people go into the fields they believe will pay well, and often they do not see the value in the humanities as anything other than a hobby. Even those who would use the humanities to evoke such thing in themselves as emotion, hope, a sense of escape, have given up that hope as the humanities have been considered a frivolous pursuit.

There has been a decline in the general sense of well-being among the population. In the same half a century, suicide rates, not only in the US but worldwide, have been up 60 percent (Suicide). People have lost their sense of purpose, and for some this sense of purpose would have been this trust that has been lost in the humanities.

The humanities are a wonderful coping mechanism, often those who are depressed will use song, poetry, playwriting, painting, drawing, etc. to escape the doldrum and melancholy of everyday life. Some so much so that they would perpetrate to do this the rest of their lives.

Today, we have committed, as a society, to tell those who would do as such that their pursuits are without reward. We have taken to telling our children that the music industry is dead, and that not everyone who can draw can be an artist.

We have forgotten enough hope that it is no longer passed on. The children of today will study math without feeling, they will read without knowing why stories of such emotion would ever be important. Monotony and apathy reign. There needs to be a change in thought.

If we, as a society, could learn to regain that hope, perhaps the youth in our communities could learn to hold it to themselves. Perhaps with a few more people willing to follow their dreams into the realm of the humanities, there would be a few less people unwilling to remain hopeful, a few less people who feel so out of place, useless, and without purpose that there would in turn be less people willing to die because they see no point in living.

We need the humanities in society, and should we lose many more people in the field there will be very little of the field to play. With the media industry being the booming industry that it is today, you would think more would be interested in this endeavor, and yet less and less people even see its validity, much less consider it a valid vocation or occupation. It seems that the people of today have lost their way. We are so intoxicated by the easy nature of complacency that we have forgotten our need to think for ourselves, we have forgotten that our feelings are each valid in their own sense. We have become so nonconfrontational that we would no longer risk our reputations on our opinions.

We need not go to great lengths to be antagonistic, mind you this is not my intent, but we need to regain that sense of expression that seems to be lost to the ages. We need to remember we are a people with emotion, and that our emotion is in of itself a reason to be expressive. We need to remember how to be human, and that the humanities can be our way to use our lives to become even more so. We need to remember how to tell others what we think in a way that they can accept without the realization that they’re doing so, and we need to remember that each of us is important, no matter what we think, what we believe, or how we choose to spend our days.

Works Cited

Brooks, David. “Humanist Vocation, The.” The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/21/opinion/brooks-the-humanist-vocation .html?_r=0&referer=. Accessed 16 April 2017.

“Suicide rates increased by 60 percent worldwide in last 45-years.” Kaiteteur News. http://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2011/09/11/suicide-rates-increased-by-60-percent-worldwide-in-last-45-years-who/. Accessed 16 April 2017.

A Review of the first season of FX’s Legion

By Kaleb Lyonnais

On March 29, FX premiered the first season finale of Legion, a television program about the character of the same name taken from Marvel Comics.  The eight-episode season was short but potent, distinguishing itself with creative use of special effects and a uniquely-unpredictable plot.

Legion is set in the same continuity as the X-Men movie franchise. The X-Men are a group of mutants, people with superpowers gained through random genetic aberrations. They were created in 1963 by Stan Lee who, after creating many other superheroes, was tired of writing origin stories for each character. David Haller, the mutant known as Legion, is the son of Professor X, the leader of the X-Men. However, with minimal references and no crossovers with the movies, anyone can understand Legion even if they have not seen the X-Men.

David is telepathic and telekinetic. Unfortunately, he is also schizophrenic, having hallucinations of strange voices and images. At the beginning of the season he believes that whenever he hears someone else’s thoughts, whenever he sees something fly across the room, or whenever anything inexplicable happens, that it is a symptom of his insanity.

As the story progresses David does not know if he is insane or if he has superhuman abilities. He must decide who he believes, the psychiatrists who want to treat his illness or the fellow mutants who want to train him to use his power.

Meanwhile David’s new friends, a group of mutants from the “Summerland” institute, are at war with Division 3, a government agency trying to control mutants. The mutants vs. government motif has been done in the X-Men movies, but Legion took the novel approach of focusing on telepathic deceit instead of combat.

Special effects are used throughout the series to portray these illusions, from monsters projected into people’s minds to entire fantasy worlds with different laws of physics. The producers stated that they aimed for a 1960s aesthetic, with bright colors and surreal scenes. The result is a memorable and palpable affect that provides continuity between the real world and the various illusions.

Much of the story is told in a non-linear order. Courtesy of another mutant, David and his new friends explore his memories. They visit many incidents where David’s power manifested, jumping from year to year. David’s memories have been corrupted, leading to an unreliable, convoluted search for the truth. Despite this complexity, the audience can follow the story easily as David tries to explain it all.

Legion‘s cast is small, allowing the audience to focus on the story instead of trying to keep track of all of the characters. David is played by Dan Stevens, who does an excellent job acting confused and uncertain without dehumanizing the character. Rachel Keller plays David’s love interest Syd, a woman with an intense aversion to physical contact (which, considering her ability to switch bodies with people she touches, is a reasonable precaution). Aubrey Plaza plays Lenny, David’s friend who dies the first episode, then makes recurring appearances as David hallucinates about her. Their allies/co-stars include the memory-exploring Ptonomy (played by Jeremie Harris), the body-sharing Cary and Kerry (Bill Irwin and Amber Midthunder), and the leader of Summerland, Melanie (Jean Smart).

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the show is its portrayal of mental illness. David begins the series in a mental hospital where melancholy patients endlessly take pills from uncaring psychiatrists. Several times mental illness is used as a trick to convince mutants that they do not truly have powers. Even David’s real hallucinations (as opposed to the real events he thinks are hallucinations) are revealed to be the result of meddling by another psychic mutants. The series gives the impression that mental illness is a lie and that mental hospitals are traps for social outcasts.

Because of the unreliable narrative and layers of illusions, the plot takes turns that are nigh unpredictable. It is made clear to the audience that David is both telepathic and schizophrenic, but this makes it unclear which events are real and which are imagined. Every episode has a revelation about an seemingly-real character doing something unreal or a seemingly-unreal event launching a real plot line.

Legion has a unique style of storytelling and captivating special effects. Its characters have multi-faceted motivations and do not rely on stereotypes to fit into the story. The plot, while complex, flows smoothly and does not resort to patronizing the audience with exposition. It is an enjoyable show to watch and an excellent experiment in entertainment.