News, the main stream media has become more of a headline than the front page headline that each prints. How can we criticize that which we don’t read or research? What do we expect of our mainstream media and what do we think deserves to be considered news?
Years ago while studying public administration one instructor taught public relations. It was a course that explained what should be news in public administration. The fact that one bureaucrat took a bribe is news. Ten thousand government employees doing their job is not news. It may be a feel good story but news it is not.
A couple of weeks ago I attended a discussion on the increase in the number of natural disasters such as hurricanes and forest fires. The speaker was interesting but kept diverting to criticizing the media for not following up on what’s being done after the natural disaster happens. First I differ with his opinion of the media not following up. Secondly the event, the disaster, is news. Several thousand people volunteering and helping is what people who can should be doing. That’s nice to know but it’s not news although it is a good human interest story.
We setup these artificial constructs in effect we place on blinders which constantly filter what we read or hear from the media. We lose the ability to discern fact from distortion or even fact from fiction. As the mainstream media tries to get around the blinders the condition is made worse.
Prior to the media events of the current year many of us viewed some of the various talk networks as just that, talk. An opinion piece is someone’s or some network’s opinion. It may be factual, distorted or consist of outright false statements. People should have enough knowledge to weed out the distortions from the opinion that is primarily fact based. Now insert competition into the field and the rush to be first, the rush to get ahead of the crowd ends poorly. As the cliché goes, haste makes waste which results in mistakes and retractions or corrections from the mainstream media. Now the claims of “fake news” begin to take root. Slanted reporting evolves into wildly distorted sound bites. Organizations like Breitbart begin to gain recognition through references by various biased groups which are in turn referenced in the mainstream media and then, the damage is done. The road back is not a hill but a mountain, often the north face.
When we don’t know whom we should believe, we take cover by believing no one. A classic song from the 1960’s claimed if everybody’s right than nobody’s wrong. Unfortunately there remains a right, a wrong and perhaps a gray area. We need a means on a daily basis to know which is which. When I search for clarity in the happenings in our country and the world, I rely on the mainstream media. These are the media outlets who employ actual reporters to delve into issues. Reporters are trained professionals who report the news. Granted there are times I am pulling my hair out over the way some article is written or the descriptive adjectives used. These are the times we need to read more, listen more and have acquired enough information to weed out the distortions or errors. If we reject it all or see news as something that shouldn’t even be considered news then we are lost and the media continues to decline.
As a boy I delivered newspapers which most everyone read. As television evolved the evening news became the start of the after dinner hour. When cable emerged it brought with it the 24 hour news stations. Among the problems with this was the 24 hours actually became the 30 to 60 minute cycles of the same news. At the end of a day a person’s perception wasn’t clear; was it one flood or hurricane or 10 or 12 based on the constant repetition. The effort to be first or just keep up placed the media in a difficult position. If there isn’t time to thoroughly fact check, then facts become secondary to the ability to compete. Thus the slippery slope becomes our path.
People roll their eyes and complain about the New York Times, the Washington Post, numerous local newspapers, CBS, NBC, ABC and NPR. Oftentimes the complaint is it’s too liberal or not forceful enough, incorrect information and the list can go on. What I try to keep in mind when reading or listening to the mainstream media is that each hires professionals to report, research and ultimately produce a good product. There are times when I want to scream and yell that’s wrong or incorrect or I totally disagree. Truthfully that’s how it should be. Blind faith or reliance on any source is the enemy of liberty. In the final analysis I believe each of these tries to put forth “all the news that’s fit to print.” The main stream media needs us to survive but more importantly we need them. I’ll keep renewing my subscriptions and stay informed because that’s where the news is found.