A Press that Misinforms its Readers

It might seem self-evident that a press which misinforms its readers is doing a bad thing. But maybe not. There’s a cohort of citizens who don’t really care for the truth — think of Fox News viewers. They will actively move away from certain truth-telling in order to find what they prefer, a comfortable retelling of what they already believe.  If an information provider wants them as customers, then lying, shading, fixing, and selective re-editing will be required as a business strategy simply to stay in business. Fox News viewers really do trust Fox News. It’s not a trust that Fox News will report the news “accurately,” but rather that Fox News will report the news “as desired.”

To some extent this same dynamic — wanting to hear what we love to hear — affects us all. Who would claim to be immune? As news consumers we love it when our biases are confirmed. News organizations, too, cherish their standard narratives.  And so, returning to the opening sentence, “It might seem self-evident that a press which misinforms its readers is doing a bad thing…” we can instantly see that a lying press (or various lying presses, plural) might really be doing both themselves and their customers a service by simply providing what the customer wants.

Sure. It might be a “bad thing” in the moral sense. But it’s a workable business strategy, with a sizable potential customer base.