While many accuse the digital media of biased, unbalanced reporting, the truth is that it is nothing new.
Over the last few years, our lack of trust in the media has birthed two new words: Post-truth and Fake News. For all intents and purposes, objective journalism is on its last legs, and I shall not mourn it.
You see, when I entered the world of journalism in the middle ’60s, the cardinal rule was: sources, backed-up sources, and references to back up the sources. It hung over the environment, and we all followed it, or else there’d be trouble.
The situation was thus, because the audience demanded it. They desired facts, in black and white. The greys of the issue were left up to the reader. Journalism, make no mistake, has always been about following the audience. The generation prior to mine may well have looked upon our work and derided it as too loose, or indeed, too tight. But to anoint the current day as that when truth died is a fallacy, and ignorant of history.
It’s been done.
The term that I’ve heard since the 2016 US election, and primarily through my grandson, was that of the “echo chamber” – in that people only pay attention to news that caters to their personal taste, and thusly form their opinions on that. I contend that this is nothing new. In my day, the echo chamber was named “bias”, and bias has always existed, especially in the newspaper game, and is why we all had to endure the wars within. Readers picked and remained loyal to their side whilst the other was deemed a falsehood. For example, people read the Telegraph or the Herald. Seldom do people read both with an objective view.
“Post-truth” is a term that reflects the times. If the audience only seek one side, they’ll just run to someone who tells them what they want to hear.
The emergence of opinion over objective journalism has been a long time coming, and an entirely logical next step. As values evolve, they yearn to be heard, and it completely stands to reason that not every view is going to be represented by the establishment. As new publications spring up, those who support those views grow louder, the establishment rallies by marginalising the marginalised, and thusly both sides of the argument become more extreme, and thusly more fringe, setting the chasm ever wider.
That’s not to say it’s a bad thing, it just echoes what the eyeballs want. The criticism of alternate opinion in my mind smells of sour grapes. As the print industry dies, it’s going to point out the people who it believed placed the knife in its back. But those like myself who safeguarded objective journalism, can also be blamed. For painting the black-and-white in such bold lettering, we were ignorant toward change, shifting the unbalanced opinions to a sole page marked “Letters to the Editor”.
“Post-truth” is a term that reflects the times, which is not to say that it is a bad thing. If the audience have no stomach for objective truth, don’t force feed them.
If they only seek one side of the argument, pure objectivism will not convince them otherwise; they’ll just run to someone who tells them what they want to hear.
As my grandson pointed out, over the lunch he didn’t pay for, his generation is moving to represent the “self”. As definitions fall, and new values rise, the old borders will not keep them. People do not feel what exists is them, so they walk toward a Jerusalem that will cater to that.
As the objective marches toward the subjective, I’m reminded of a seemingly obsolete truism: “Don’t believe everything you read.”
It certainly holds true today. Find a voice you agree with, but remain suspicious of it.
Just like the good old days.