“The person who pretends to not see the truth is committing something much worse than a mortal sin, which can only ruin one’s soul – but instead committing us all to lifetimes of pain.
The truth is not just something we bring to light to amuse ourselves; the truth is the axis munid, the dead center of the earth.
When it’s out of place nothing is right; everyone is in the wrong place; no light can penetrate. Happiness evades us and we spread pain and misery wherever we go.
Each person, above all others, has an obligation to recognize the truth and stand by it.”
I personally am not losing sleep over the incessant headlines about “historically low trust scores for news media” and how the media is being attacked by everyone <although mostly by people who do not really want to hear the truths of what journalists are saying>.
You don’t get into journalism and not have a thick skin.
In addition … when you are being attacked by a shitload of people who do not appear to want to see the truth … well … journalism gets paid to open our eyes to things.
The news industry will hunker down and do what they do best when pushed into a corner … report shit that we should, and need to, hear & read.
I will share an unpopular thought and one that should be stated more often.
I have said it before and I will say it again … at the core of any viable journalist <not a ‘fake journalist’ … which is some amateur like me or some blogger or someone with a smartphone videoing what is happening> is a healthy respect for truth.
They may have some skewed ideological belief filter but truth is truth and facts are facts and every journalist worth a shit knows that their livelihood depends on truth & facts.
To suggest that “mainstream news” is all liberal … or dishonest … is just lazy rhetoric from lazy thinkers.
Distraction from amateur, professional and made up news options. This is the easiest to spot and most likely the easiest for real news reporters & journalists to manage because it is out in the open and blatantly amateurish and mostly non-original content … Facebook and Twitter as well as online-only outlets such as Breitbart and BuzzFeed. Many of these outlets simply distract us from real journalism and the viable journalists need to help us discern fact from fiction and shiny objects versus objects of substance.
Easy to spot … easy to battle … but still a tug of war.
And then there is fake news. Don’t overthink this idea … fake is fake. It I made up. It is not made up of a distorted view of reality … it is simply a completely new reality – an alternative universe. The easiest example for me on this is “Hillary’s doctor hiding serious illness” <with highly edited video of some crap to show as proof>.
That is fake. That is made up.
And then there is the tug of war between opinion based news and … well … news news. This is not fake news, per se, but rather the blurring between what is ‘infotainment’ <opinion based> and a straight up delivery of facts seen without some ideological or personal view filter.
That said. Journalism cannot ignore the fact that ‘infotainment’ has power. A recent PewResearch report shows that the power of television is … well … powerful in this segment of news/journalism.
In a paper titled “Bias in Cable News: Persuasion and Polarization” <Gregory J. Martin/Ali Yurukoglu> concluded that support from Fox News was capable of erasing as much as a 12-point lead by a Democratic candidate in an election.
In fact researchers have used the term “Fox News Effect” to describe the significant bump the network was capable of granting favored Republican candidates.
Pew studies show that 40% of Trump voters got their news from only/primarily FoxNews. In a distant second place for supporters of the president was CNN (8%), followed by Facebook (7%). Next was NBC (6%) and local news (5%), followed by much smaller segmentations.
That said. While powerful in driving attitudes the challenge for journalists in this example is that some of the “news” absorbed by viewers is actually “opinion” ,or , at best, infotainment depending on when they were watching.
And then there is distorted news.
This is actually an entire channel of quasi-information providers strewn throughout the internet spewing out distortions of reality. They look familiar when you interface with them but they interpret the same information that mainstream channels get in a completely different way – kind of creating an alternative universe that these ‘facts’ can actually exist.
It’s almost like they have taken the facts, moved them out of their home and placed them in some insane asylum.
Think fringe outlets like InfoWars, the Gateway Pundit, Conservative Treehouse, and even Breitbart News.
What’s worse is that they call themselves ‘reality news.’
Instead … it is really like some bonehead, like me, who is an untrained journalist curating some information and spinning some mumbo jumbo you would hear in a drunken conversation at a bar.
However … because it is raw & unfiltered it comes across as ‘real’ albeit the information itself is actually not real.
The way the message is delivered creates the impression the message is … well … as good as what you get from professionals. It is not.
And then there is the cocooning of information gathering — I only get my news & information from places which <a> say what I already believe and <b> cater to other people who think like I do.
In this tug of war journalists who have valid things to say need to figure out how to share information with people who are receiving some valid information from journalists dedicated to that group.
I could argue that this is not news job but rather we need to encourage more people to be more curious … but that is a whole different challenge. Regardless. Journalists need to address cocooning.
The most demanding tug of war.
The sheer amount of people who just do not absorb any news.
They neither read the news nor watch the news.
For any variety of reasons, some quite valid <I am too busy> and some not so
valid <they should just shut up>, there is a large swath of people who just do not watch, read or hear news — directly.
Therefore the news these people absorb is second hand or figuratively shared.
I will address later how journalism has to address this.
That is the multi dimensional tug of war real journalism is in at the moment.
While I just clarified the nuanced segmentation of the ‘challenges to effective journalism’ everyone should be clear that in the mish mash of everyday Life … it will only boil down to a battle of truth versus non-truth <lies> and facts versus made up shit.
In addition … I could suggest that the greatest divide that journalism faces right now is between those who seek news and those who do not seek news.
Journalists do NOT peddle fake news. Their battle is over real news and how it is delivered.
To be clear … let me say that again … mainstream news organizations <FoxNews, MSNBC, CNN, ABC, BBC, CBS, NBC, NY Times, The Guardian, Huffington Post, etc.> are in the real news business.
Let me pick the most contentious one I just highlighted – FoxNews.
They do not offer fake news. They may misrepresent information & news … and they may offer some bad reporting and they may skew news <and they also have opinion shows which are … well … opinion shows and not news shows> but they do not offer fake news.
Fake news is made up.
Non existent truth.
Some bloke or gal sitting in front of some computer somewhere just deciding to tell a story under the guise of news.
In the end journalists have a couple of very specific challenges:
- What I believe economists call “search value.”
People actually have to want to hear the news before they will actually hear it. Sounds basic but as I noted earlier … there is a fairly significant segment of people who just do not pay attention to any news. That’s why I used the term ‘search value’ which is the measure of value associated with the work invested to attain it – i.e., I have to believe there is some value before I enter into the search.
Economists typically define value of information in the context of an optimal choice problem. A consumer is making a choice to maximize expected utility or minimize expected cost. Therefore, the value of information is the increment in expected utility resulting from the improved choice made possible by better information.
All that high falutin’ economist speak aside … journalism has to better build perceived value in what they offer and not assume people place a high enough value on it.
- It is not about being neutral.
Journalists need to not only get a grip on who and what they are … but they also need to remind us, the everyday schmuck as it were, that objective journalism is not ‘neutral’ journalism … it is always about truth.
Opinions can certainly be neutral or skewed. Fake is news can be … well … it is just fake. And infotainment can be entertainingly skewed. But journalism should be always focused on truth & facts.
It was easy to lose sight of the fact that objectivity, in the phrase of historian Thomas Haskell, is not neutrality. In the 1930s and 1940s, the poet and playwright Archibald MacLeish was one of many who saw journalistic objectivity bleeding into a potentially misleading neutralism. “It is current-day fancy to consider a journalist objective if he hands out slaps and compliments with evenhanded impartiality on both sides of the question,” MacLeish said. “Such an idea is, of course, infantile. Objectivity consists in keeping your eye on the object [and] describing the object as it is.”
There is a misnomer with regard to ‘fair & balanced.’
Just as there is a misunderstanding between reporting news and journalism.
Just as there is a blurring between journalism and opinion shows.
And there is clearly a misguided notion with regard to ‘neutral.’
Journalism is all about, and only about, keeping your eye on the topic and describing the topic as it is. Journalists need to not only remind themselves of that but remind us of that.
I do believe real news and real journalism will win in the end because people demand truth and demand information which can help guide their own lives.
Journalism has an Achilles heel. And it is not fake news, distorted news or even lies.
It is each other.
They are screwed if they do not, as an industry, seek to discern news & journalism from infotainment & opinions. It is one of the few times where it would behoove all news deliverers to agree on some guidelines with regard to how they framed the information they provided.
This may sound counter to … well … all of them currently competing in a competitive eyeball environment. Yet. I would suggest to them that if they re-calibrate the industry working together they can go back to kicking the shit out of each other afterwards.
In the end.
Here is what journalism hopes for … the arc of truth.
You cannot out run truthful journalism … the truth always catches up with you.
And in doing that … therein lies the undoing of this absurd mess of ‘dishonest media.’
The moment that someone cannot consistently blame the media is the moment that people will tilt over to the other side and realize the media is not the problem and that truth & facts really do exist.