NEW YORK – As Internet culture continues to provide new avenues to information, the news industry has been forced to lay off nearly 90% of its fact-checkers, according to a report from media watchdog organization Media Matters.
This development comes as no surprise to media insiders. “Honestly, it’s about time we trimmed the fat,” says Fiona Spiegel, an editor for The Huffington Post. “Fact-checking is simply the last non-essential part of reporting. Americans want to decide on their own what is or isn’t true.”
The report echoes Spiegel’s comments, concluding that speed and style are substantially more important to readers than factual accuracy. “Internet users want information as fast as possible,” says Spiegel, “so they can tweet some snarky joke about Big Bird and get back to trolling strangers on YouTube.”
A study previously published by Washington Watchmen found that the average American can retain new information for only 20-30 minutes – considerably less time than a below-average goldfish can – before collapsing into a state of insecurity and helplessness. News organizations see this as permission to proliferate baseless claims, since consumers won’t remember them long enough to consult other sources.
According to Spiegel, it is simply not profitable to spend time and revenue on an activity that does not empower readers to satisfy their confirmation biases.
“It’s simple supply and demand,” Spiegel explains. “The consumer demands a random factoid that they can inject into a political argument on Facebook, winning the esteem of their intellectually inferior peers. Our job is to supply that factoid, preferably superimposed over an image of Boromir from “Lord of the Rings,” for the lulz and unearned condescension.”
The layoff of fact-checkers has not exclusively affected online news, though. Television news stations and print outlets took to parroting administration talking points. Since the late seventies, divisive political rhetoric has tripled nationwide. Conversely, literacy rates have plummeted, and fewer Americans than ever posses the ability to support a political position without warranting the term “brainwashed, troglodytic sheeple.”
Rachel Davis, a recently laid-off fact-checker, says she is excited for the break. “I used to work on ‘Fox and Friends.’ It was like trying to bail water out of the Titanic with a shot glass. Steve Doocy doesn’t even get the date right most mornings. And that brown-haired one? Jesus. He makes Doocy look like MENSA material.”
Publishers are also excited about the decline in fact-checking. “Let the free market decide what the facts are,” suggests Matt Drudge of the conservative Drudge Report. “Maybe twenty people were killed in Syria last week, maybe five. Who’s to say? It’s all subjective anyway.”