November 28, 2016 Last Updated 9:00 am

Fake news, disinformation, the digital media war the press finds itself ill-prepared to fight

Morning Brief: Signs are that the president-elect will continue to use social media to spread untruths, forcing journalists and editors to come up with new strategies for reporting both the lies and the facts

What to do when the president – currently president-elect – chooses to say something that is patently untrue? Does calling it out act as a fact-check, or merely more media noise? Will the president’s supporters tune out the media’s attempts to set the record straight in favor of the original message?

This is the dilemma facing the US press in the face of a politician intent on using social media to sway the public, to the point of saying just about anything. So far, at least, the major news organizations have not come up with an effective strategy that can counter Donald Trump’s twitter storms.

One way may be to shield individual reporters by crediting stories that refute Trump to “staff”. This is what Politico chose to do with its story (below) which allowed the Clinton campaign to refute Trump’s Sunday twitter storm. With journalists being threatened online, this may the only way to shield reporters from future retaliation.

NBCNews.com, Phil McCausland:

With No Evidence, Trump Claims ‘Millions’ Voted Illegally

President-elect Donald Trump tweeted a stream of thus-far baseless claims of voter fraud Sunday, indicating that the Hillary Clinton campaign’s involvement in an election recount was hypocritical.

Trump, who himself suggested that he would not concede the election during the campaign if he had lost, used his Twitter account to declare that “nothing will change.” He also reiterated that Clinton had already conceded the election.

Trump, however, also effectively offered his own support for the recount, providing a seemingly baseless allegation that he would have won the popular vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.”

Politico, (credited to staff):

Clinton team starts firing back at Trump

“We are getting attacked for participating in a recount that we didn’t ask for by the man who won election but thinks there was massive fraud,” complained Marc Elias, Clinton’s campaign lawyer, who explained the decision to join the recount effort in a Medium post on Saturday.

Clinton herself has said nothing about the recounts, popping up in the media only because she posed for selfies a few times with fans who have stumbled across her in the woods and at a bookstore in Rhode Island.

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, a Democrat charged with ensuring the state’s vote goes smoothly, called Trump’s claims “absurd” and “reckless.”



This won’t be the last article that tries to explain what is lying and what is mere deception, things said in order to reinforce a point of view, or an alternative view of reality.

The New York Times, Michael P. Lynch:

Fake News and the Internet Shell Game

he use of social media to spread political misinformation online is partly just a giant shell game. Propagandists often don’t care whether everyone, or even most people, really believe the specific things they are selling (although it turns out that lots of people always do). They don’t have to get you to actually believe the penny is under the wrong shell. They just have to get you confused enough so that you don’t know what is true. That’s still deception. And it is this kind of deception that dreadful for-profit conspiracy sites like Liberty Writers News have been particularly adept at spreading.

Sure, some percentage of people actually believed the content of such sites (for instance, that Hillary Clinton was behind the death of a federal agent). But a far greater number of people came away ever so slightly more doubtful of what is true. They didn’t believe Hillary Clinton ordered a hit, but they didn’t disbelieve it either. It simply became part of the background, one more unsettled question.



We’ve seen major staff cuts across the magazine industry this fall, but if these cost cutting efforts don’t produce the results company executives desire (they won’t) you’ll see more drastic actions follow, such as title closings and company mergers. This trend will also effect that digital publishing companies that serve the industry and consumers, as well. Two-thousand sixteen was a tough year, and while 2017 may see an uptick in ad revenue, it may also see some companies reaching a critical point where they no longer can sustain their current pace of losses.

AdNews, Lindsay Bennett:

Bauer Media in talks to buy PacMags?

Bauer Media has approached Seven West Media about buying Pacific Magazines, according to The Australian

The possible merger between Bauer and Pacific Magazines could help the flailing publishers fight back against declining advertising revenues and the force of social networks.

Bauer has had a tumultuous year, also closing women’s magazine Cleo and a slew of senior executives exiting the business.

Pacific Magazines is undergoing the same cost cutting measures, with its new CEO Gereurd Roberts selling off K-Zone and Total Girl. Earlier in the year, former CEO Peter Zavecz sold off Prevention Magazine and Your Garden.

NY Post, Keith Kelly:

Time Inc. rejects buyout bid from billionaire Edgar Bronfman Jr.

Edgar Bronfman Jr. is making a bid to buy Time Inc., publisher of People, Time and Sports Illustrated, The Post has learned.

Bronfman, who is teaming up with Len Blavatnik’s Access Industries, recently submitted a bid to the board of the legendary magazine publisher to buy the company for $18 a share.

The price is a 30 percent premium over Time Inc.’s Friday closing price of $13.80 — and 34 cents over the company’s 52-week high of $17.66.

The Time Inc. board is said to have rejected the offer.

Nieman Lab, Laura Hazard Owen:

Atavist cuts half its staff and searches for a sustainable path as funding dries up

… Atavist, the Brooklyn-based publishing platform and digital magazine that once counted IAC, Andreessen Horowitz, and Google’s Eric Schmidt among its backers, is facing similar struggles. After failing to raise new funding, the startup has laid off half its staff and is looking for ways to cut costs and stick around.

“We could go around chasing money, and potentially go down in flames chasing money all the way to the end,” CEO Evan Ratliff told me. “Or we could figure out a way to make what we’re doing sustainable. Unfortunately, that involved letting some really wonderful people go.”

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