Fake news

Mapping the social relations of journalism's legitimation crisis

Authored by: James Compton

Routledge Handbook of Media Geographies

Print publication date:  October  2021
Online publication date:  October  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367482855
eBook ISBN: 9781003039068
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter provides a critical overview of debates concerning the history of fake news, its causes and implications for democracy. While the term gained global prominence following the 2016 American presidential campaign, it dates to the moral panic associated with turn of the century yellow journalism. The chapter situates current debates about fake news and concerns that we have entered a Post-Truth era within the broader political economy of accelerated commodity production and circulation. It discusses the flexible accumulation strategies of networked news organizations struggling to find new business models amidst audience fragmentation, advertising losses and massive job shedding. News media, formerly oriented to local geographic areas, are increasingly financialized institutions that now answer to internationally owned hedge funds. It argues that the fake news controversy is connected to a weakened social consensus and lack of trust in mainstream institutions, such as journalism, following the financial collapse of 2008. It details how the social space once occupied by mainstream institutions of government and media has been challenged and fragmented by promotionally interested social actors of various political stripes who use their knowledge of networked media and platforms to advance their interests via the circulation of misinformation, competing truth claims and “clickbait.”

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