Study: Breitbart-led right-wing media ecosystem altered broader media agenda

“A major new study of social-media sharing patterns shows that political polarization is more common among conservatives than liberals — and that the exaggerations and falsehoods emanating from right-wing media outlets such as Breitbart News have infected mainstream discourse,” according to WGBH News in Boston.

“‘Though the report, published by the Columbia Journalism Review, does an excellent job of laying out the challenge posed by Breitbart and its ilk, it is less than clear on how to counter it. Successfully standing up for truthful reporting in this environment ‘could usher in a new golden age for the Fourth Estate,’ the authors write. But members of the public who care about such journalism are already flocking to news organizations like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and, locally, The Boston Globe, all of which have experienced a surge in paid subscriptions since the election of President Trump. That’s heartening, but there are no signs that it’s had any effect on the popularity or influence of the right-wing partisan media.

“The CJR study, by scholars at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, at Harvard Law School, and the MIT Center for Civic Media, examined more than 1.25 million articles between April 1, 2015, and Election Day. What they found was that Hillary Clinton supporters shared stories from across a relatively broad political spectrum, including center-right sources such as The Wall Street Journal, mainstream news organizations like the Times and the Post, and partisan liberal sites like The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast.

“By contrast, Donald Trump supporters clustered around Breitbart — headed until recently by Stephen Bannon, the hard-right nationalist now ensconced in the White House — and a few like-minded websites such as The Daily Caller, Alex Jones’ Infowars, and The Gateway Pundit. Even Fox News was dropped from the favored circle back when it was attacking Trump during the primaries, and only re-entered the fold once it had made its peace with the future president.”

“Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan, writing about the study earlier this week, recalled talking with a Trump voter in Pennsylvania who said she didn’t support Clinton because ‘I didn’t like how she stole those emails and it got people killed in Benghazi’ — a perfect storm of misinformation.”

The rest of the article is here.

Author: jeffpelline

Jeff Pelline is a veteran editor and award-winning journalist - in print and online. He is publisher of Sierra FoodWineArt magazine and its website Jeff covered business and technology for The San Francisco Chronicle for 12 years, and he was a founding editor and Editor of CNET News for eight years, among other positions. Jeff has a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley and a master's from Northwestern University. His hobbies include sailing, swimming, and trout fishing in the Sierra.

23 thoughts on “Study: Breitbart-led right-wing media ecosystem altered broader media agenda”

  1. In reality, NPR (national petroleum radio) and PBS (petroleum broadcasting system) were compromised long ago when Reagan started to cut funds and force public media to rely on donations. and other watchdog groups have long documented the slow slide to the right as wealthy endowments moved in to fill the funding gap, with strings attached of course. The public then gets “right wing lite” viewpoints masquerading as the radical left. Mix that in with the “liberal bias” myth and you get a population that can no longer tell the difference between news and alternate facts.

    1. Yup, exactly. I’ve been watching the right wing bent in NPR and PBS for several years. Their board of directors are now mostly right wing zealots. It’s been happening in an obvious manner since the late 90’s, early 2000’s.

  2. Trumps Proposed Budget:
    Would increase defense spending by $54 billion and then offset that by stripping money from more than 18 other agencies. Some would be hit particularly hard, with reductions of more than 20 percent at the Agriculture, Labor and State departments and of more than 30 percent at the Environmental Protection Agency.

    It would also propose eliminating future federal support for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Adios NPR,PBS private funding for everything.

    Within EPA alone, 50 programs and 3,200 positions would be eliminated.

    Trump has said he wants to eliminate all disease, but the budget chops funding for the National Institutes of Health by $5.8 billion, or close to 20 percent. He has said he wants to create a $1 trillion infrastructure program, but the proposal would eliminate a Transportation Department program that funds nearly $500 million in road projects. It does not include new funding amounts or a tax mechanism for Trump’s infrastructure program, postponing those decisions.

    Other Cuts- This includes the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which disburses more than $3 billion annually to help heat homes in the winter. It also proposed abolishing the Community Development Block Grant program, which provides roughly $3 billion for targeted projects related to affordable housing, community development and homelessness programs, among other things.

    It calls for privatizing the Federal Aviation Administration’s air traffic control function, cutting all funding for long-distance Amtrak train services and eliminating EPA funding for the restoration of Chesapeake Bay. Job training programs would also be cut, pushing more responsibility for this onto the states and employers.

    The proposed budget extensively targets Obama programs and investments focused on climate change, seeking to eliminate payments to the United Nations’ Green Climate Fund — one key component of the U.S. commitment to the Paris climate agreement — and to slash research funding for climate, ocean and earth science programs at agencies such as NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

    At the same time, clean-energy research, heavily privileged by the Obama administration, would suffer greatly under the budget with the elimination of the ARPA-E program (Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy) at the Energy Department and an unspecified cut to the agency’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

    Trump has proposed, for example, giving $168 million for charter school programs and $250 million for a new private-school choice program, which would probably provide tuition assistance for families who opt to send their children to private schools. Betsy DeVos knows all to well the burden of student debt at private schools-

    The biggest increase in spending would be directed at the Pentagon, but the budget plan does not make clear where the new $54 billion would go. The budget plan would boost funding for the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force. It would, among other things, acquire new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and rebuild what it says are depleted munitions inventories. But it stops short of saying how these new funds would support new tactics to combat the Islamic State.

    The bump in defense spending was a marked contrast to the cuts Trump proposed in diplomatic and international programs. He proposed cutting combined spending for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development by $10.1 billion, or nearly 29 percent. It would cut an unspecified amount of funding from U.N. peacekeeping efforts. It would also cut spending for Treasury International Programs, foreign assistance programs that have been supported by Republican and Democratic administrations, by $803 million, or 35 percent.

    He proposed new money to hire border security agents and immigration judges.

    And he requested $1.7 billion in new funding this year and an additional $2.6 billion in new funding in 2018 to begin construction of a wall along the border with Mexico. Trump proposed creating this wall during his campaign and had said Mexico would pay for it.

    Trump has proposed eliminating an international food aid program, halting funding for clean water initiative in rural areas and reducing county-level staff for a 21 percent drop in discretionary spending at the Agriculture Department (yo LaMalfa- bye bye rice subsidies), according to a White House budget document.

  3. We desreve Trump. We LET 25% of the electorate elect this sociopath and malignant narcissist with nary a functioning brain in his head. He may be the stupidest, most dishonest politician in our lifetime, but for sure we are the stupidest electorate in our history. We deserve everything that coming to us.

    1. …In that, 26% of the electorate, mostly on the left, stayed home “to make a principled statement” or voted for the Putin tool Jill Stein. Either out of abject stupidity, willfullness or narcissism. Bernie said “This is not the time for a protest vote”. And him being ignored by “his followers” only goes to show that those on the extreme left are no different then those on the extreme right. Their homemade ideology trumps any pragmatism or intelligence…thus we deserve what we get. I hope you all feel really “Principled” now and are proud of your stupidity, and are ready to “suck it up snowflakes” while you’re social security, Medicaid> Medicare as we know it, meals on wheels, EPA, State Department et al…and all the other social safety nets are ripped out from under your stupid lives.

      In addition, Jill Stein was at the same Russian slurp fest that Flynn was at while he was being paid thousands by Russia for his speech and Jill was wondering around in a stupid haze at all the attention she was getting. As Bill Mahar said “we are a very, very stupid country.”

    2. Happy St Paddy’s Day Bruce. From those whom I spoke to that voted for Jill were already Green Party members. I’ve also been reading that some on the left voted for tRump as a sort of revenge against Hillary – really stupid IMHO.

      1. Yup Annie. The left has their own “Party before Country” mentality…voting Green party without doing their due diligence on Jill Stein and just believing her blather…sound familiar?

  4. So Bruce,
    What about the nearly three million folks who did vote for Clinton and had their votes tossed out by the electoral college?

    1. They weren’t tossed out, that’s an obtuse statement, and you know it. That’s just another strawman you’re so fond of. The electoral college should be obsolete. A vote from a midwest red state carries 3.5 time the electoral weight of a vote from a coastal blue state. However, If one takes the votes given to clown Jill Stein, Hillary would have won the electoral vote easily. Did she screw up in her strategy in where she campaigned, most assuredly she did. But Stein was the Ralph Nader of this election…people made their choice…intentionally or not they voted for Trump by either staying home or wasting their vote on Stein.

      1. Another virulent response from Bruce.
        What is up with you?
        Can’t you please be more civil?
        I feel like I should come over to your house and bake you some cookies.

      2. So yeah, we should all be more civil….and perhaps a little less judgmental…which is a common underlying tone of many a post around here…but in substance Bruce is correct.

        I can’t tell you how many people I talked with during this election who simply refused to acknowledge that the US political system, for all of it flaws, is built on the concept of building broad coalitions to gain and exercise political power.

        The failure of 10% of the ‘left’ to accept this basic fact–and recognize that reform is great but you get no reform if you don’t have the power to implement it–is largely responsible for our need to spend at least 4 years fighting an authoritarian radical right wing agenda (if not 8) then another 4-8 years after that regaining what is lost during the administration of the BLOTUS.

        Sometimes I really wish people read more history and less Alternet.

    2. Steve,

      I hope this doesn’t keep you up at night, but if Trump maintains his power and position and completes eight years, we could very well see Ivanka Kushner, as first woman president of the United States.
      I think Trump would love to help her succeed where Hillary failed.
      Bet it’s already in the works.

  5. The critical comments behind Kennedy’s article are interesting and diverse, coming from right and left.

    The first false note I caught in Kennedy’s article was this:

    … members of the public who care about such journalism are already flocking to news organizations like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and, locally, The Boston Globe, all of which have experienced a surge in paid subscriptions since the election of President Trump.

    As if these venerable news organizations are now — or ever have been — completely free of so-called “fake news.”

    One recent example of bad journalism by one of these venerables — the Washington Post — attacked “fake news” by using the most egregious narrative techniques of fake news. This was the now infamous hit-job by the Washington Post concerning the website PropOrNot:

    Washington Post Promotes Shadowy Website That Accuses 200 Publications of Being Russian Propaganda Plants

    The Internet has surely rocked the old business model of the news industry.

    But perhaps even more consequentially, it’s shaken many of our old assumptions about reliable sources, trustworthiness and the integrity of journalism.

  6. Just saw McClintock interviewed about the border wall on news tonight ” it is a national security project, ok with spending the 2.6 billion to build, defense isn’t a budget issue but a National security issue, and never really believed that Mexico would pay for it”-
    Oh boy, true colors never were so bright-

  7. RE Jill Stein’s influence on the election: I’m not defending Stein (I voted for Clinton) but in a close election every plausible explanation can look — well, not just look, but be — determinative. For instance, here’s Greg Palast’s summary of the effect of Crosscheck (perhaps the GOP’s most powerful tool for disenfranchisement) in several close states:

    “The system, called Crosscheck, is detailed in my Rolling Stone report,
    The GOP’s Stealth War on Voters,” 8/24/2016.

    Crosscheck in action:
    Trump victory margin in Michigan: 13,107
    Michigan Crosscheck purge list: 449,922

    Trump victory margin in Arizona: 85,257
    Arizona Crosscheck purge list: 270,824

    Trump victory margin in North Carolina: 177,008
    North Carolina Crosscheck purge list: 589,393

    1. Moral: GOP cheating must be taken as a given, a regular part of the election landscape. Dems must therefore craft victories with extraordinary margins to be sure of victory. Personally I don’t believe this will ever be possible until they stop screwing their “traditional” constituencies (labor, middle class … ).

  8. Nothing new here. Remember the voter purge in Fla when Jeb was gov and W was running against Gore and the hanging chads and all that. Or the Diebold voting machines and John Kerry projected to win by 3-4% in Ohio but losing by less than 1%.

    1. I must applaud the quality of analysis and apparent breadth of reading evident by this site’s varied contributors. I find it refreshing, suggesting lines of thought and possible enquiry should I search beyond my usual sources: The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker and several Internet outlets. At least the dialogue is significantly more elevated than that which is rifled at me on my infrequent comments on FB. I finally activated my FB account several days before the November election, a time when tempers were red, white and blue.

      One Trump apologist, a one time resident of Port Chester, NY — the town of my high school years, Italian blue collar in my day now with Hispanics accounting for well over 50% of school populations — fired much populist rage at immigrants and me with double barrel slurs of ass wipe, you’re just trying to sound intelligent and piece of sh*t. Of course, none of his energy was used to offer any evidence of the truth of his comments regarding HRC’s criminality or Trump’s fitness as President.

      My high school friends, so many the sons and daughters of first or second generation immigrants, are scattered about the country with only a smattering still residing in the confines of what was the largest village in the state of New York. This particular antagonist lived nearby, but in CT. Instead of his profile on his homepage there was a photograph of what admittedly was a beautifully crafted low-rider, shiny custom truck, which I suspect he had built from scratch. It was worthy of much praise for its unique, sleek design and expert craftsmanship. But essentially the truck was unfit for most every function performed by trucks, much like Frankenstein’s monster. The clearance from the low hanging, chrome exhaust system was perhaps no more than three or four inches from a road’s uncertain surface. And woe to any passenger spilling a chocolate milkshake on expensive upholstery within the cab. It brought me back to the days I was in correctional education, in Santa Ana, CA, when my students, mostly hard core Hispanic gang members, would show me photos of low riders they coveted. I’d always tell them it was pretty but basically useless. For me, trucks were for hauling, going four wheeling, or even moving. No matter, to some it was a cultural thing, so they said.

      And the defense narratives of Trump and his similarly minded cabinet members, are presented with inconsequential assertions of mere opinions, sculpted brazenly yet unconvincingly as fact despite an origin worthy of no more credibility than Alex Jones’ InfoWars. Seeing this guy’s actual photo reminded me of the loud and boisterous bar arguments of my younger, tequila drinking days. Back then, this guy would probably have crushed me with an eighty pound left hook to my head. I’m smarter now, always trying to “Sting like a bee” dancing quickly to safety.

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