I may end up writing a whole series of posts on this topic – we’ll see how it goes – but in spending a lot of time over the last couple of days thinking about how both our election process as well as the day-to-day democracy in general could be improved, I feel like a BIG AREA that is ripe for improvement … though I admittedly don’t know exactly what these improvements are … is around the area where a lot of folks from both sides of the aisle have been pointing their fingers – the media.
Especially here in the age of information where groups of all sizes, individuals, and even people just creating memes can be “news sources” for people online, it seems like it’s more difficult than ever to get information in front of people that’s unbiased and factual…
For those who still get their news from TV, it doesn’t help that more likely rely on commentators than actual reporters – arguably because that’s what happens when you’ve got 24 hours to fill with coverage without 24 hours of legitimate reporting coverage to offer.
And for those who get their news from the Internet … whoa boy! Where to even start?! Almost every site sways one way or the other, some quite blatantly so, some are deliberately just spreading fake news and not with humorous intent like I do, and social media can be an absolute mess – as Facebook is currently arguing right now – with regards to best distributing the posts of the users while also taking care not to promote false and defamatory content along the way.
I certainly won’t go so far as to say that online and especially social media doesn’t still offer news value, however I think it’s reasonable to say that regardless of format, what the American people need more than ever is news outlets who can be relied upon to report the news and do it fairly, accurately, and reliably … which admittedly gets tricky in this divided country that we currently live because right now so many people want their news slanted the way that they do, which just exacerbates the problem of having highly polarized news outlets catering to party lines instead of ones down the middle that report on the entire landscape equally.
Even when we have those professional sources to fall back on, that still doesn’t help the fact that far too many Americans literally get their “news” from soundbites and memes and Facebook shares where they don’t even necessarily read the article as much as they allow themselves to get riled up by the headlines that show up in their news feeds as they scroll for the next issue that queues up in their social media echo chamber.
I really don’t know how you ween people off of unreliable social media “sources,” but I’ve got to think that it starts with having solid, reliable news sources for both sides that you can point people to as an alternative.
Right now I hate the idea that in a way people are really able to “choose their own facts” because each side has their networks and websites that lean in their directions which reliably contradict the other side, so it’s easy enough to just label the other side as liars whenever any conflict comes up and they’ve almost automatically got “news sources” that they can point to in support of their position whether in reality something is really actually true or not.
We need to get past this desire to spin every story in the direction of the target audience and instead be able to rely on our media to report the news in the best manner fit to serve the facts that are actually present.
I think only when we can get the people back to a point where both sides can trust a single news source collectively instead of their own niche versions can we expect them to really come together and realize that maybe the two parties’ beliefs aren’t all that different after all. But as long as people have their own version of the truth to point back to, we’re never going to get anywhere.
In short – there’s only one true version of fact, and we need to be able to rely on our news media to deliver that information to the people.