In a world full of trolls, contradictions, and hypocrisy, one can tumble into the rabbit hole and stumble out intellectually bruised, beaten and genuinely confused. How can sound, structural bases such as ‘truth’ and ‘fact’ be under questioning? Has it always been this way? How can I empower myself and others to be less like Alice and more like Hermione or Princess Diana of Themyscira (Wonder Woman)- overcoming barriers with curiosity, knowledge, and tenacity?
If knowledge is the first foothold in our quest for empowerment, then we must look to the sources of information to build a more concrete foundation instead of the current state of quicksand. Where are people getting their information and how are we holding sources accountable?
With unlimited sources of information, I often find myself trying to sieve through content like water in a coffee maker, and like my morning coffee there are certain things I have come accustomed to paying and not paying for; my consumption of news is the same way. I rarely pay for information and that is a BAD habit. Sources that were once able to invest in true journalism now have to find ways to make ends meet by trading impactful stories for click bait, using resources to create native journalism- a blurred intersection between news and advertising, or downsizing. In most cases, all three occur leaving the consumer with a half painted picture of a story that is most likely an advertisement. Our faith in journalistic integrity has spiraled out of control as we see investigative journalists once breaking stories of police brutality or political scandals now confined to stories that coincide with owners’ interests.
If knowledge is the first foothold in our quest for empowerment, then we must look to the sources of information to build a more concrete foundation instead of the current state of quicksand.
The fact is that most people don’t read printed news sources anymore and seek information elsewhere (57% TV, 38% online, 25% radio, 20% newspapers)1, and trust in news sources may depend on political beliefs as democrats have a higher trust of national and local news organizations as well as social media than republicans and republicans are more likely to trust friends, family and acquaintances than democrats2. This is becoming increasingly dangerous as conservative companies, like Sinclair Broadcast Group, Inc., monopolize local TV stations across the country and push their personal agendas, making it mandatory to run certain stories. This type of constant bias messaging is meant to change the perception of news and influence people’s spending habits, voting habits, and moral compasses.
In all honestly, I find myself tuning into satirical comedy shows that talk about recent events such as Last Week Tonight, Samantha Bee, and Saturday Night Live Weekend Update because there is no political agenda to be pushed. There are just comedians who have armed themselves with the facts of relevant events and a team of researchers (and other comedians). In doing this, I allow myself to look at news sources with skepticism which is key when social media continues to spam my account with siloed perspectives of the world.
At the end of the day, there are 3 things that we can do to enhance our relationship with news outlets while holding them accountable:
Find a reliable news outlet that you like and support them financially if possible;
Expand your point of view. It is easy to be insulated with sources that have the same ideals as you;
Check the facts! There is no such thing as an “alternative fact.” See where your news source is pulling their information from to make sure it is not an advertisement or a false account.
1. Amy Mitchell, Jeffrey Gottfried, Michael Barthel and Elisa Shearer, Pew Research Center “ The Modern News Consumer New attitudes and practices in the digital era,” July 7, 2016. Retrieved October 26, 2017.
2. Michael Barthel and Amy Mitchell, Pew Research Center “Americans’ Attitudes about the News Media Deeply Divided Along Partisan Lines,” May 10, 2017. Retrieved October 26, 2017.