Monday, December 12, 2016

Facts or dangerous fiction?

As I’ve said before, there was a time when the bulk of news reporting was an honorable profession.  My mother was a reporter for The Daily Hampshire Gazette in Massachusetts, and she was bound by tradition and strict editors to objectively report the facts, verifying everything in her stories as much as possible by checking with more than one source.  The idea was to report honestly and in depth and let the people make up their own minds about the implications.  Media back then were under a measure of control because they were the only news organizations available to the public, and those organizations wanted to protect their honorable images.  When I was young there were newspapers, magazines, newsreels at movie theaters, and radio.  No TV.  No computers.

Over recent decades news reporting has gradually become the domain of attractive news celebrities.  And individual giant news networks have taken on agendas, with the result that much so-called news is unabashedly slanted this way or that.  Today it’s obvious which political or social views a network favors and heavily promotes.  We watch the selected ones we like.  The ones that tell us what we want to hear.

The frenzied media scramble to be first with scoops has led incompetent and often unprincipled reporters to air or print information that is simply not accurate and is ever more shallow at best.  My local news anchors routinely make reporting errors that once would not have been tolerated by their superiors.

With the advent and global proliferation of social media, anyone and everyone routinely passes on those news items they favor.  And all restraints are off.

It has been only a short, inevitable transition to individuals stretching the truth and then, lately, to making up their own malicious news entirely.  Fake news.

In consequence, more and more of us are becoming mistrustful of any news, even from once-respected major networks.

And in some cases fake news is having far worse consequences.

Even deadly.


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