Truthiness in private spaces

“Mobile chat applications allow private and segmented conversations, different interpretations, and different sets of facts.”

In this year’s election, one of the inescapable media trends was the dissemination — in large numbers, across borders, from an ever-growing set of “news organizations” — of news stories light on truth. Many of these stories were produced in “fake news” shops and circulated in ideologically friendly online communities.

valerie-belair-gagnonWhile many of these stories were easily disprovable, they nevertheless found millions of people willing to read, comment on, and forward them to other users. Years after Stephen Colbert coined the term “truthiness,” today internet users have access to not just tilted news but also fake news, so they can easily locate the truth they want to exist.

In the coming years, the fragmentation of online discourse will allow for many more “truths” to exist. As Colin Agur, Nicholas Frisch, and I recently found out in a recently released Tow/Knight report, mobile chat applications allow private and segmented conversations, different interpretations, and different sets of facts.

While these new digital spaces provide opportunities for democratization of knowledge (e.g. more people can access information) and the emergence of important new players (e.g. digital fixers), they can also allow falsehoods to endure and shape opinion. A recent Stanford study found that the vast majority of middle-school students can hardly tell the difference between real and fake news.

For scholars looking ahead to the coming year, many questions await. What is the outlook for low-information users? How can news organizations develop content that can reach users in private spaces? And given the profits enjoyed by fake news shops in 2016, how can serious news organizations compete? The truth is up for grabs and if 2016 is any guide, we may be in for many surprises.

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon is assistant professor of journalism studies at the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Lam Thuy Vo   The primary source in the age of mechanical multiplication

Ryan McCarthy   Platforms grow up or grow more toxic

Andrew Haeg   The year of listening

David Skok   What lies beyond paywalls

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-checking bot

Mary Walter-Brown   Getting comfortable asking for money

Carla Zanoni   Prioritizing emotional health

Vivian Schiller   Tested like never before

Mira Lowe   News literacy, bias, and “Hamilton”

Laura E. Davis   Show your work

Sue Schardt   Objectivity, fairness, balance, and love

Millie Tran   International expansion without colonial overtones

Nushin Rashidian   A rise in high-price, high-value subscriptions

P. Kim Bui   The year journalism teaches again

Tim Griggs   The year we stop taking sides

Olivia Ma   The year collaboration beats competition

Ray Soto   VR moves from experiments to immersion

Scott Dodd   Nonprofits team up for impact

Liz Danzico   The triumph of the small

Sara M. Watson   There is no neutral interface

Andy Rossback   The year of the user

Jeremy Barr   A terrible year for Tiers B through D

Erin Millar   The bottom falls out of Canadian media

Mandy Velez   The audience is the source and the story

Tressie McMillan Cottom   A path through the media’s coming legitimacy crisis

David Chavern   Fake news gets solved

Bill Keller   A healthy skepticism about data

Laura Walker   Authentic voices, not fake news

Swati Sharma   Failing diversity is failing journalism

Jon Slade   Trusted news, at a premium

David Weigel   A test for online speech

Alexis Lloyd   Public trust for private realities

Ken Schwencke   Disaggregation and collection

Taylor Lorenz   “Selfie journalism” becomes a thing

Sydette Harry   Facing journalism’s history

Ståle Grut   The battle for high-quality VR

Mike Ragsdale   A smarter information diet

Almar Latour   Thanks, #fakenews

Dhiya Kuriakose   The year of digital detoxing

Amie Ferris-Rotman   Вслед за Россией

Tanya Cordrey   The resurgence of reach

An Xiao Mina   2017 is for the attention innovators

Gabriel Snyder   The aberration of 20th-century journalism

Asma Khalid   The year of the newsy podcast

Ashley C. Woods   Local journalism will fight a new fight

Renée Kaplan   Pure reach has reached its limit

Pablo Boczkowski   Fake news and the future of journalism

Sarah Wolozin   Virtual reality on the open web

Keren Goldshlager   Defining a focus, and then saying no

Libby Bawcombe   Kids board the podcast train

Cindy Royal   Preparing the digital educator-scholar hybrid

Aja Bogdanoff   Comments start pulling their weight

Juan Luis Sánchez   Your predictions are our present

Trushar Barot   API or die

Matt Waite   The people running the media are the problem

M. Scott Havens   Quality advertising to pair with quality content

Emily Goligoski   Incorporating audience feedback at scale

S.P. Sullivan   Baking transparency into our routines

Adam Thomas   The coming collaboration across Europe

Mathew Ingram   The Faustian Facebook dance continues

Priya Ganapati   Mobile websites are ready for reinvention

Guy Raz   Inspiration and hope will matter more than ever

Carrie Brown-Smith   We won’t do enough

Coleen O'Lear   Back to basics

Julia Beizer   Building a coherent core identity

Errin Haines   Chaos or community?

Lee Glendinning   A call for great editing

Amy O'Leary   Not just covering communities, reaching them

Nicholas Quah   Podcasting’s coming class war

Felix Salmon   Headlines matter

Mario García   Virtual reality on mobile leaps forward

Erin Pettigrew   A year of reflection in tech

Molly de Aguiar   Philanthropists galvanize around news

Dan Colarusso   Let’s make live video we can love

Rubina Madan Fillion   Snapchat grows up

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Truthiness in private spaces

Ariane Bernard   Better data about your users

Maria Bustillos   “It’s true — I saw it on Facebook”

Melody Kramer   Radically rethinking design

Cory Haik   Navigating power in Trump’s America

Claire Wardle   Verification takes center stage

Jim Friedlich   A banner year for venture philanthropy

Mark Armstrong   Time to pay up

Kathleen Kingsbury   Print as a premium offering

Rachel Sklar   Women are going to get loud

Matt Karolian   AI improves publishing

Alice Antheaume   A new test for French media

Reyhan Harmanci   Bear witness — but then what?

Nathalie Malinarich   Making it easy

Richard J. Tofel   The country doesn’t trust us — but they do believe us

Dannagal G. Young   The return of the gatekeepers

Samantha Barry   Messaging apps go mainstream

Liz McMillen   The year of deep insights

Mary Meehan   Feeling blue in a red state

Michael Oreskes   Reversing the erosion of democracy

Tim Herrera   The safe space of service journalism

Javaun Moradi   What can we own?

Dan Gillmor   Fix the demand side of news too

Kawandeep Virdee   Moving deeper than the machine of clicks

Megan H. Chan   Cultural reporting goes mainstream

Katie Zhu   The year of minority media

Emi Kolawole   From empathy to community

Joanne Lipman   The year of the drone, really

Sarah Marshall   Focusing on the why of the click

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting stratifies into hard layers

Hillary Frey   Forests need to burn to regrow

Zizi Papacharissi   Distracted journalism looks in the mirror

Doris Truong   Connecting with diverse perspectives

Rachel Schallom   Stop flying over the flyover states

Elizabeth Jensen   Trust depends on the details

Michael Kuntz   Trust is the new click

Christopher Meighan   Unlocking a deeper mobile experience

Andrew Losowsky   Building our own communities

Francesco Marconi   The year of augmented writing

Steve Henn   The next revolution is voice

Juliette De Maeyer and Dominique Trudel   A rebirth of populist journalism

Sam Ford   The year we talk about our awful metrics

Geetika Rudra   Journalism is community

Margarita Noriega   From pinning tweets to tweeting pins

Moreno Cruz Osório   The year of transparency in Brazilian journalism

Caitlin Thompson   High touch, high value

Helen Havlak   Chasing mobile search results

Ole Reißmann   Un-faking the news

Umbreen Bhatti   A sense of journalists’ humanity

Alberto Cairo   Communicating uncertainty to our readers

Rebekah Monson   Journalism is community-as-a-service

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   News after advertising may look like news before advertising

Tracie Powell   Building reader relationships

Robert Hernandez   History will exclude you, again

Jonathan Hunt   Measurement companies get with the times

Peter Sterne   A dangerous anti-press mix

Corey Ford   The year of the rebelpreneur

Amy Webb   Journalism as a service

Anita Zielina   The sales funnel reaches (and changes) the newsroom

Andrea Silenzi   Podcasts dive into breaking news analysis

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Earn trust by working for (and with) readers

Jonathan Stray   A boom in responsible conservative media

Andrew Ramsammy   Rise of the rebel journalist

Burt Herman   Local news gets interesting

Annemarie Dooling   UGC as a path out of the bubble