Wednesday, June 22, 2005

You Heard it Here First

Why the obsession with delivering news first? It's a race out there, and it's an easy one to win. Just tell them what you hear and check details later. We all remember the 2000 election, when the presidential election was deemed "over" months before it should have been. We saw it with Rathergate, the Wendy's finger hoax, the runaway bride, published photos of Michael Jackson's eventual prison cell (via AP). WMDs? Stations report allegations, then report their implications, but know that by questioning them, they are only working harder to report nothing.

Then... shock! The story is actually not what was reported at all! The facts weren't facts. Of course, that was the plan all along--see, retracting a story is a story itself, though it will be framed as informative, not apologetic. That's two stories, where the holding out for the truth is no story at all for the same effort. It was a roll of the dice, a gamble to be there first, truth a blessing or truth be damned. The problem is, everyone is running the race, so when one organization jumps the gun, others follow.

What if there was a news organization that we could trust? One that would aggressively verify and challenge its sources, and not just quote them. A news agency that you would look to confirm all others.


Why do viewers have to be the skeptical ones? If we can't believe what the news reports, what value does it have?

3 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What if there was a news organization that we could trust?"

Ummm...is that a serious question?

With rare and dubious exceptions, organizations don't earn trust. Organizations are similar groups of people working together according to certain rules. To trust an organization is either to trust all the people who run it, or else an act of blind faith. And even honest reporters can make mistakes.

Don't trust organizations. Trust facts, ask questions, connect the dots in different ways, and come to your own conclusions.

And if an organization earns not only skepticism (as even the best should), but active distrust (as most corporate media has, or should have), stop giving your energy (time, money, and/or attention) to it. Perhaps do your own investigation, fact-checking, reporting, publishing/broadcasting (it's cheap enough these days) -- take over the job the TV and corporate news media has all but abandoned.

"Media" is plural of medium, and the news "media" represents the medium(s) through which news and information travels. So the best way to decentralize that media -- to take it out of the hands of a few -- is to take it into our own hands, to actively participate in spreading news and information, particularly that which we find to be true and relevant. It's obvious the corporate media, insofar as they pretend to work for truth, journalism, and the common good (rather than money and private interests), are not doing their job; once we recognize that, it's time to start doing ours.

7/30/2005 6:40 PM  
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