Thursday, December 22, 2016

Rags To Riches

Via Think Progress, the National Enquirer comes up from the bottom of the bird cage.

Since election day, the Enquirer has trumpeted the president-elect’s controversial decision to hire white nationalist figures like Steve Bannon, his economically untenable and largely falsified plan to save a few jobs from leaving Indiana, and his bold leadership in convincing Apple to move 4.5 million jobs to the United States (no such plan exists).

Many shoppers afford the National Enquirer and its sensationalist headlines little more than a casual, bemused glance while waiting in line to pay for groceries. But the sheer reach of the publication—the Alliance for Audited Media puts their circulation at roughly 350,000 in the first six months of 2016, on par with publications like Scientific American and many times larger than The Nation or Harpers—gives them a megaphone.

It remains to be seen if the National Enquirer’s current standing as a disreputable rag changes in a Trump administration. For years, the paper has tried to build its credibility as more than a peddler of gossip and fiction, most recently in 2008 when they were the first to break the story about John Edwards’ long history of affairs. Though their reporting lacked basic journalistic standards, subsequent reporting by actual journalists lent weight to the Enquirer’s story.

But there is some evidence that the Enquirer will have a powerful ally and a captive audience working in the West Wing. It was the Enquirer that first pushed a fake story about Ted Cruz’s father being seen with Lee Harvey Oswald months before the assassination of JFK. Within hours, Donald Trump himself was sharing the story to his millions of followers on social media, citing the Enquirer – “They actually have a very good record of being right,” he said at the time – in the way most people cite the New York Times.

It is somehow fitting that the National Enquirer should become the house — or mouth — organ for Trump and his minions.  Every dictator needs a propaganda minister, and a supermarket tabloid fits right in with the flavor of the Trumps and their flair for tacky low-brow gaudiness.

Meanwhile, there’s a glimmer of hope that real journalism will not take this journey into the land of living Elvis and dying Hillary without doing some fact-checking.  The Washington Post is testing a live fact-checker for Trump’s tweets.

It’s still in the early stages, but our goal is to provide additional context where needed for Trump’s tweets moving forward (and a few golden oldies). For example, here’s what it shows in relation to that Trump tweet.

Or, for example, here’s what it says when you go to Trump’s tweet about how there were “millions of people who voted illegally,” which is why he lost the popular vote:

Sometimes, we just add more context, like when Trump announced his pick of Rex Tillerson to serve as secretary of state. Curious for more info? It’s right there in the tweet now.It takes a little while for the extension to update, so we’ll try to stay up to speed on fact-checking what Trump is tweeting, but it may take a few minutes. This is a work in progress, so don’t hesitate to offer feedback and thoughts.

And don’t hesitate to point to Trump tweets that could use a little explication. That’s the goal, after all.

There is hope for journalism after all.