The election is over, and like groundhogs emerging from their holes in the spring, we’re all beginning to look around and see what the world looks like.
For the environment, it’s highly uncertain. Environmental issues were barely discussed, and when they were, they were too often presented more as caricatures than issues.
Some of the comments made by President-elect Donald Trump were particularly startling for a party that traces its conservation legacy to Theodore Roosevelt, including calls to get rid of the Environmental Protection Agency (later back-tracked), and claims that climate change is a hoax (created in China, no less).
Campaign rhetoric is usually tempered by the realities of governing. With the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay at a pivotal point, we’ll all be watching to see whether that proves true in coming years.
But to me, one of the most outrageous things about this election wasn’t the rhetoric, but reports in its aftermath about the rise of “fake news” — stories made up, often without a shred of truth — that filled the Internet.
Fake news sites feature fabricated stories that lure readers, which in turn generates ad revenue. Much of the fake news in the weeks prior to the election was campaign-related — as that was capturing the public’s attention — but fake news existed before (and after) that.
It has been made possible by the rise of news aggregators on the Internet that rely on automated algorithms to identify “news” from various places with little regard for its origin or its veracity.
Facebook is a prime culprit; much of the content on its news feeds in the weeks prior to the election were fake. At least in part that’s because the methodologies Facebook uses to select stories are based on their popularity, and eye-popping — but fake — stories turn out to be pretty well-read, even though they are sometimes written by teenagers in other countries.
At the Bay Journal, we don’t rely on teenagers from Macedonia to make up stories. We still gather news the old- fashioned way. We attend meetings and hearings, interview people and read reports. Then we sort through the information and write about what we’ve learned. We’re pretty good at it — that’s why 80 percent of our readers say we’re their most trusted source for Bay news.
That work will be more important than ever in coming years as we report on what, if any, impact the new administration has on efforts to restore the Chesapeake and protect its watershed.
We’re now Bay Journal Media
Chesapeake Media Service is no more. In November, we changed the name of our nonprofit organization to Bay Journal Media, Inc.
The change stemmed in part from our recent organizational review, which found some people were confused about the name. While the Bay Journal was well-known, hardly anyone knew what Chesapeake Media Service was.
It was also a problem for some credit card donors; they would contribute to our Bay Journal Fund, but were confused when Chesapeake Media Service showed up on their monthly statements, not recognizing it as our nonprofit organization (which makes the donation tax-deductible).
The new name, we hope, will clear up that confusion and make us more consistent with our “brand.”
We also opted not to simply make our brand name “Bay Journal,” but to add “Media” as a nod to our future.
While producing the Bay Journal in print and online remains our core operation, we also supported the production of the Beautiful Swimmers Revisited documentary, operate a syndication service and are considering other expansions in the future, potentially including such things as books.
Our new name preserves the heritage of our core product but also points to a host of opportunities for the future.