Steven Rosenfeld in AlterNet:
Right-wing media evolved into a hall of mirrors in 2016, when Breitbart displaced Fox News as the key agenda-setting and attack-leading epicenter of a disinformation-filled, paranoid ecosystem promoting Donald Trump and his pro-white America agenda. Breitbart not only led the right’s obsessive, hostile focus on immigrants, it was also the first to attack professional reporting such as the New York Times and Washington Post. Breitbart's disruptive template fueled the political and information universe we now inhabit, where the right dismisses facts and embraces fantasies. There is no corollary dynamic on the left or among pro-Clinton audiences in 2016. The left's news sources, media consumption and patterns of social media-sharing are more open-minded and fact-based and less insular and aggressive. Still, Breitbart’s obsessive focus on fabricating and hyping scandals involving Hillary Clinton (and Jeb Bush early in the primary season) pushed mainstream media to disproportionately cover its agenda.
These observations are among the takeaways of a major study from Columbia Journalism Review that analyzed 1.25 million stories published online between April 2015 and Election Day 2016. While the study affirmed what many analysts have long perceived—that right-wing media and those who consume it inhabit a paranoid and dark parallel universe—it also documented shifts in the right’s media ecosystem; namely, Breitbart supplanting Fox News as the leading purveyor of extreme disinformation. “A right-wing media network anchored around Breitbart [has] developed as a distinct and insulated media system, using social media as a backbone to transmit a hyper-partisan perspective to the world,” CJR wrote. “This pro-Trump media sphere appears to have not only successfully set the agenda for the conservative media sphere, but also strongly influenced the broader media agenda, in particular coverage of Hillary Clinton.”
The CJR report said Americans’ media consuming habits are “asymmetric,” meaning those on the left—progressives and Democrats—rely on more diverse outlets and content, compared to the right.