Sunday, October 09, 2005

Debased Coinage

I just caughtthis post over at Sgt Stryker about journalism having gone in a complete circle and returned to the days of old when "yellow journalism" was the norm and nobody thought anything was wrong with that. I found these last two paragraphs the most compelling:

Slightly buzzed, or completely sober, my conclusion is pretty much the same. The major media is debased coinage. I can’t take it as a given any more, that what I see, or read, or hear from them is true. My assumption is, that they have their own agenda, I will have to do a bit of fact-checking, and wait for a while before I can come to any sort of conclusion about what I have had put in front of me— make allowances, tease out the implications, come to my own conclusions from the jig-saw assembly provided to me.

It all kind of reminds me, in a minor way, of what people in the former Soviet Union had to do— and that is a sad comment on what the major media has become.
Eager young journalism majors used to burble that they wanted to be reporters so they could make a difference. So they have… but not a good difference.

Honestly, I don't think there wasn't a time when we needed to fact check the media, looking back on history. We just didn't have the resources to do it. That's why public discourse actually included people standing around at parties or outside the barbershop talking about the days events. I think that, if we are amazed now that the media gets anything incorrect or has a slanted view, we probably are just now waking up and have been buying what people have said all these years, assuming that the media was there to give us accurate information.

One has to finally come to terms with the fact that every body on this planet, even if they don't admit it, has an ideological slant and it effects everything they do every day whether that includes a subconscious buying "recycled" paper for the printer, buying an American car instead of a Japanese car, deciding where we go on vacation because we heard this or that about another destination that was unfavorable, all of these things exist and effect how we do business, live our lives, analyze and present information, even to our friends. It is too much, really, to presume that a journalist in a cubicle or even on the street does not bring with them their ideological mind set and frame an article or comment from that point. I also think that it is rather disengenuous for a reporter or columnist to claim that they only present the facts without adding their own slant to the outcome or tone of the column.

I believe that right now we look at the media differently because we really can look up the same information that a journalist used to present their case (largely, except for super secret CIA sources) and make our own decisions about what it means; and we can do that at the speed of light. I think, right now, if anyone believes that journalism has been or ever will be without ideological slant, they are fooling themselves. I think, at the same time, if you believe that media is inherently evil, you may be too far gone for your own good. It serves it's purpose. But we should be prepared to understand that today, information is limitless, that every piece of information can have 10 pieces of information that change it's meaning and our expectations, that every person, whether professional journalist or blog hack (like me) can find information to support their views; that it is truly a phenomenom to find someone that will write anything that does not support their views in some way shape or form; and that finding the truth is like looking for the complete picture in a 5000 piece puzzle with 500 pieces missing.

The odds are, if you stand back far enough and look at the entire puzzle, you can get a general idea of the picture, but the missing 500 pieces will still keep a few details forever hidden from us.

One thing I've always thought is that our system of education all the way to university is supposed to teach "critical thinking skills", but for some reason we still get people that can only focus on one side of the argument and are extremely myopic in many cases.

Maybe that describes all of us at some point or the other?

On the other hand, if you get all of the information that you can or think that you need and you make a decision to believe it or not, to support it or not, then you've done at least more than half the population catching the 6 o'clock news as they sit down for their evening microwaved meal. More power to you.

I know that I've railed against the MSM a few times. Usually because the information is presented without context. But then, context is about our individual collected experiences. Which is why I believe that blogs will not replace media, but may provide that additional context that cannot be produced in a three column article or a two minute sound bite.

That was what was compelling about the last two paragraphs of Sgt Mom's piece: the point is, journalism really hasn't changed, we've always needed to be able to put information together and give it context as it relates to our experience. This just may be the hundredth time we needed to be reminded of that fact.

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