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Breaking news: A democracy in peril a study of the American fourth estate, its government, and its society


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In a democracy, the flow of information is a type of power. In the US, this information flows through a mode of media such as newspaper, radio, television, or the Internet. With each new mode of media, the speed and volume of information has increased to the end user. Today, the preferred mode of media is social media, giving the populace an amplified voice over conventional forms of media. However, this mode of media also brought with it a several societal factors acting as a system. RAND, in a 2018 study, called this system-phenomenon Truth Decay. This study expands upon RANDs original work and specifically explores the evolution of the television and Internet industries in America, noting the increase of speed and volume of information to society and, ultimately, the resulting negative societal consequences. Within each case study, the research process traces television and the Internets control mechanisms. Specifically, the control mechanisms are delineated into laws and regulations instituted by the US government; gatekeepers, acting as the human decision makers in the media loop and often serving as barriers to information; and norms, representing the recursive process of media and societys effects on one another. The control mechanisms impacts are then compared to five societal elements of Truth Decay. The Truth Decay elements include societys lack of trust in institutions, increase in partisan polarization, erosion of civil discourse, blurring the line between fact and opinion, and political paralysis. The study attempts to demonstrate that if the medias medium alters the speed and volume of information faster than the pace of control mechanisms, then society will sink into Truth Decay.



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