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Communication in the Age of Trump

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Edited By Arthur S. Hayes

Franklin Delano Roosevelt used radio fireside chats to connect with millions of ordinary Americans. The highly articulate and telegenic John F. Kennedy was dubbed the first TV president. Ronald Reagan, the so-called Great Communicator, had a conversational way of speaking to the common man. Bill Clinton left his mark on media industries by championing and signing the landmark Telecommunications Act of 1996 into law. Barack Obama was the first social media presidential campaigner and president. And now there is President Donald J. Trump.

Because so much of what has made Donald Trump’s candidacy and presidency unconventional has been about communication—how he has used Twitter to convey his political messages and how the news media and voters have interpreted and responded to his public words and persona—21 communication and media scholars examine the Trump phenomenon in Communication in the Age of Trump. This collection of essays and studies, suitable for communication and political science students and scholars, covers the 2016 presidential campaign and the first year of the Trump presidency.

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6. From Fox News to Fake News: An Anatomy of the Top 20 Fake News Stories on Facebook Before the 2016 Election (Mitchell T. Bard)

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6. From Fox News to Fake News: An Anatomy of the Top 20 Fake News Stories on Facebook Before the 2016 Election1

MITCHELL T. BARD

Iona College

A week after Donald Trump’s surprising presidential election win in November 2016, Craig Silverman (2016) published a study that thrust the idea of fake news firmly into post-election analyses of the election. Silverman found that the 20 fake news stories that received the most engagement on Facebook—that is, the stories that were liked and shared the most—received more online interactions than the top actual news articles on the social media site did during that time period (see Table 6.1 for the list of articles).

Major news outlets not only quickly reported the findings but also asked questions about how the proliferation of fake news before the election might have affected the outcome. Both the Washington Post (e.g. Dewey, 2016; Timberg, 2016) and the New York Times (e.g. Higgins, McIntire, & Dance, 2016; Maheshwari, 2016; Mozur & Scott, 2016; ) ran multiple pieces in the next week on fake news, from a profile of a producer who thinks he tipped the election to Trump (Dewey, 2016) to a step-by-step look at how one story went viral (Maheshwari, 2016).

Not surprisingly, with fake news becoming a discussion point as the presidential election campaigns began, academic researchers quickly started looking into the fake news phenomenon. A study conducted...

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