Of Course Nobody Trusts Media in the Age of Clickbait


New polls show that public trust in the media is lower than ever. Are content farms to blame?

As America gears up for another presidential election, the trustworthiness of the media has been called into question [via poll conducted by randomly calling 1,025 people]. After the release of a new Gallup Poll that says only 40% of Americans have "a great deal" or "a fair amount" of trust and confidence in the media, content farms are scurrying to generate content about the media's trustworthiness in a trustworthy way.

But can users/readers 'trust' the content farms that they've integrated into their daily lives' to provide a 'big picture' view of the world? In theory, 'new media' is supposed to empower independent voices, giving us a connection to the content creators 'changing' media. However, the push of content farms to achieve infinite scale may contribute to the distrust of everything and everyone, all the time.

You probably shouldn't trust big box content farms. They aren't doing anything to make the world better, only filling hours in our days with content that is as hollow as CNN being played in a dentist's waiting room. International big box content farms do nothing to activate a community, but instead attempts to narrow worldviews into universal atrocity filters.

While the poll indicates that there is 'less trust in the mass media than ever,' it is difficult to decipher what 'the media' even means anymore. The impact of content farms on the self-perception of 'authentic media consumption' was not accounted for in the poll. Whether you are a reader of an 'intelligent thinkpiece' like this one, or the consumer of 'above the backlash' big picture recaps of politically charged current events, everyone's political identity has probably been turned into a 'trustworthy' content vertical anyways. We all probably have a site where the comment community seems 'less annoying,' thereby signaling it was created for us.

After news like NBCUniversal investing in Buzzfeed and Vox, I am confused about the mass perception of the internet as an integrated experience with 'traditional media.' It makes me feel like maybe hashtags can't change the world, and internet media as a space to inform and change the world is officially dead. All that internet content can be is supplemental content to traditional media, about as deep as a mom using a hashtag to vote on Dancing With the Stars.

Reading into the methodologies of the poll, the exact question posed to landline and cellular phone callers was, "In general, how much trust and confidence do you have in the mass media -- such as newspapers, T.V. and radio -- when it comes to reporting the news fully, accurately, and fairly -- a great deal, a fair amount, not very much, or none at all?" I'm not sure if 'reporting' is actually a successful media strategy any more. Instead, we are all trained to identify the potential moral outrage level in every bit of news. We can only trust ourselves to calibrate how much terribleness we can deal with in the world, as presented by the terrible world according to mass media.

The only trust we can find in any medium is the media personality or outlet that brands themselves' as 'being aware' that there is a problem with the way problems are presented as problems to the people who don't have the problem solving skills to stop creating more problems.

In my city of residence, San Antonio, TX, an independent outlet the Rivard Report released a longform series called Place Changing, which is a multipart series that tells the story of a historic neighborhood in downtown San Antonio that is oddly vacant. Collaborating with a local architecture firm Overland Architects, the goal is to inform citizens of truly explaining what 'change' actually means in this downtown corridor beyond the buzzword of 'gentrification', and attempts to unite community members to play a part in the political process of promoting and regulating infill projects.

While the tone is startlingly hopeful for internet content and presented in a Squarespacian design aesthetic, I can't help but think that in some way, this level of activation is 'the point' of the internet as a way to network people and their well-intended ideas on an appropriate scale. A scale where it is believable that 'change' can happen as a result of media empowering community members with legitimate information and the vocabulary to comprehend the world. This hopefully leads to citizen involvement in the political process. However, a big box content farm would probably see the need for a technology or #platform that 'provides local community activation solutions' and sell it to cities across the country.

Whether you are consuming big box content farms or mass media, it is all part of an exercise in community-killing by creating a global view that isn't actually grounded in true community. Trustworthiness is not a natural byproduct of infinite scalability.

There is also the prevalent Middle American narrative of 'the media' being 'the bad guy,' which is a theme that resonates across political affiliations. Apparently, there is still an expectation that 'the media' as a massive blob is supposed to be a seeker of truth. In the content farm era of media consumption, it's hard to believe 'media' in any format is doing much more than creating content against which to sell advertisements and maintain engagement. You'd like to believe content farms with massive audiences would see some sort of ethical responsibility to 'do good.' But 'doing good' doesn't attract eyeballs, clicks, engagement, or increase shareability.

The media is just something that exists to tell the story of our times in an appropriate tone that matches the collective angst of the working class.

Distrust isn't an actual sentiment held by the world as a result of media analysis. Distrust is the only common theme that we can all identify from the mess of media to substitute for legitimate critical thinking. Mass media and content farms are both exercises in rationalizing our lack of desire to identify as part of any true community.

Carles.Buzz is the fallen content farmer behind HIPSTER RUNOFF. Read more Life on the Content Farm here.