North Texas Daily

Living in the era of misinformation

Living in the era of misinformation

Living in the era of misinformation
February 21
14:26 2018

Misinformation confronts me on a Wednesday morning. In ugly, garish, black letters, the phrase “Obama communist love” is accompanied by a horribly Photoshopped image of Barack Obama, passionately embracing Vladimir Putin. Hundreds of Facebook users seem to accept this picture as irrefutable proof of Obama’s rabid communism without question.

Misinformation confronts me when I flick on the TV and an entire board of commentators spends a whole segment dissecting the ramifications of the striking similarity between Melania Trump’s jacket to an outfit of Jacqueline Kennedy’s, grasping at absolutely anything to fill a dead spot in the relentless 24-hour news coverage.

Misinformation is the symptom of an even graver evil. Misinformation is the natural result of a moralistic rot in journalism that has been allowed to fester.

Journalism went through a dramatic shift in the decades near the close of the last century. The news went from being a public work considered to be vital for any enlightened society, to being an enterprise concerned with competition.

For the better part of the 20th century, news media was primarily, if not exclusively, ruled by ABC, CBS and NBC. These networks did not expect to make a profit off of news coverage — in fact, they very readily accepted their news programs would run at a deficit.

At the time, it was simply accepted that journalism would never be a great source of revenue, although it was simultaneously considered an absolute necessity.

But, as these networks were bought and others were created, this idealistic conception of news media was killed.

From that time on, news networks have become much less interested in conveying the nuances of a complicated reality and much more concerned with profit lines. As a result, public opinion became paramount to news networks, which of course led to polarization.

With time, it seems every single news organization has almost proudly lined themselves up along a political compass for everyone to see.

News networks have assembled themselves along party lines in hopes of establishing a loyal core audience. In our current world, people only listen to what they want to hear, and news networks only say what their core audiences are willing to pause Netflix for.

The problem has only been compounded by the explosion of social media. In the decay of traditional news programming, more dubious amateur reporting has found a foothold.

Today, the social consciousness is completely flooded with propaganda trussed up to look like real journalism, which ends up only making it harder to find a voice of reason in all the noise.

With time, the polarization of the news media has led people to believe journalism is something it actually is not.

Journalists do not create, they capture. Journalists do not write for themselves, they write for others. Journalists are servants to the public — or at least they ought to be.

It is not natural to be balanced. It is not instinctual to be impartial. It is not easy to curtail one’s ego so savagely in hopes of achieving a genuine understanding of the truth. And yet, that is precisely the role a journalist should take.

The news should not be dependent on shifting public opinion or profit or competition. The news should only be dependent upon a desire to communicate the complexities of the truth, but unfortunately that is not the world we live in.

Featured Image: Illustration by Gabby Evans

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Macy Jackson

Macy Jackson

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1 Comment

  1. HickoryHouse
    HickoryHouse February 22, 11:32

    A very well said commentary on the state of journalism in a polarized and click driven society. Thank you for the perspective

    Reply to this comment

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