The news has always been and will always be the dissemination of information that is contrary to the default. Imagine newscasts that consisted of the anchors telling us nothing out of the ordinary? Would you feel more or less informed about world events?
Would you be satisfied if all that came across your screens from the newsroom were accounts of rivers flowing normally, tides coming and going according to their tables, a report of a sunny day, fairly free flowing traffic, politicians sitting behind their desks rifling through paperwork, members of the military sitting in their barracks reading cards and letters from loved ones at home, or someone who woke up feeling perfectly healthy? Of course not. Because these things are part of the default day for a vast majority of us.
Collectively, most of who live in developed or developing nations live what would be considered normal lives. We wake up, begin our day, do our thing, then go to bed generally without any major malfunctions or disasters. As individuals we do have our personal trials, tribulations, and tragedies ranging from the relatively minor to the endurance of extreme hardships. But, overall, in the grand scheme of things, for most of us life goes on and we are content with our social and professional circles and what is happening within. However, humanity has a thirst for being connected to world events that decidedly abnormal, or at least outside the purview of our daily existence. This is why the news is vital to our sense of connectivity to society at large.
It is for this reason that news broadcasts feature stories that are extraordinary. Natural disasters, political upheaval, pandemics, wars, bigotry, discrimination, and all manner of behaviors that are outside of what we collectively deem as being socially acceptable. The news brings information that give us pause in our daily lives and allows us to realize that there are things in this world that require our attention and to be a part of the greater collective.
This information compels us into action. A tornado wipes out a small city and thousands of people nationwide come together to volunteer or donate cash and resources to whatever agencies are there to help. A pandemic is ravaging the population and again, thousands of people are motivated to check on neighbors or meet the needs of hospitals that are getting precariously low on supplies. A flood is predicted to overtake a small rural town and people from surrounding communities come together and work all night to fill sandbags to protect the property of total strangers. A politician is acting out in a way that goes against everything you believe in so the like-minded band together in an effort to vote them out of office. Reports of inequality, bigotry, and discrimination cause hundreds, thousands, and sometimes millions of people to start or become involved in movements to effect change for people they have never met.
In effect, bad news can and often does result in positive change. But there has been an increasing shift in how the news is being interpreted and quite frankly, it is disturbing. The trend has gone from the perception of news as the factual dissemination of information pertinent to the knowledge and understand of the world around us, to what is being called ‘fear mongering.’ Those who believe this are being increasingly vocal about how it needs to stop for a variety of reasons that defy the very definition of what news is. But because their focus on the news as fear mongering isn’t unilateral, these individuals and the organizations that represent them are increasingly resembling the “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” monkeys that have become synonymous with willful ignorance.
The perception of the news as fear mongering is mainly due to the plethora of propaganda being promulgated by one large corporate news organization and their affiliates with the purpose of labeling many other large corporate news providers as “The Mainstream Media,” all of which are working in concert offering a collective narrative of fake news to somehow advance an agenda to deceive the general public into becoming something out of a George Orwell novel. From the perspective of someone who has spent a lifetime in the news and information industry, the irony of this would be laughable if it weren’t completely destroying the foundation that the news rests on.
What is exacerbating this situation something known as “citizen journalism.” Not to be confused with protests, opinion commentary, punditry, and other forms of expression, but the dissemination of information by individuals or organizations that are not ethically or morally bound to provide information to the public that has been researched, vetted, and verified to include multiple independent sources. Add to the mix the technology available to produce multi-media that rivals the look and feel of legitimate news outlets, and you have the perfect combination to produce media that is either the genesis of or the vehicle for a vast array of conspiracy theories that most of us in the mainstream media put firmly in the category of “batshit crazy.”
Hence, now you have millions of people who have come to believe that the factual, vetted, and verified information being broadcast by the major and affiliate news providers such as ABC, CBS, NBC, The Associated Press, Reuters, United Press International, BBC, VOA, The Hill, NPR, etc., are part of a worldwide conspiracy bent on scaring the hell out everyone with lies and fear mongering.
To add to the problem, mainstream news providers have been replaced on social media with a proliferation of private individuals wearing scrubs or sitting at a desk in front of a wall of impressive looking books producing snake-oil YouTube videos and websites that usually have no links to source material, and when they do, their sources have been long debunked by nearly every respectable scientific or legitimate fact-checking organization.
To add insult to injury, the validity of these citizen journalist’s media offerings are not based on facts, research, or science, but on how many times it’s been shared or viewed. Fifty people witness a black man being pummeled by a white cop is seen as a lie perpetrated by a sinister movement to defund the police in order to bring about a new world order, but a documentary about how 5G technology will cause cancer is truth because it was shared a million times is seen as truth?
In the interest of brevity, I am not gong to continue with comparing how facts and real-life large scale tragedies are being dismissed as fear mongering and systematically replaced by the seemingly endless stream of conspiracy theories. I will ask the only real question that consistently pops up in my mind as I read with astonishment what is being passed for as news and what is being presented as truth in the world today, especially on social media:
What the hell have we become?