Reclaiming our Power as Patrons of the News

Journalists have been enslaved by a system obsessed with selling stories, which creates journalists who become enslaved by seeking stories that sell. Trust in the news is waning, but I do not believe the fault starts and ends with journalists. News media is a business, and to stay afloat, stories must sell; if journalists do not toe the line, they get fired, as seen in the case of the firing of Emily Wilder from the Associated Press (Bastani, 2021, 1:31). The perception of the news as trustworthy is changing – for the worse. However, the degradation of trust is not only justified but is not a new phenomenon, despite the intention behind the concept of a “free press.” It is worth considering that if journalists are enslaved, who is perpetrating slavery?

Various techniques used by media agencies to manipulate the public are plentiful, and with digital advancements, they are becoming more sophisticated. As the consumers of news, we need to educate ourselves on the tactics, like those laid out in the article by Andrea Bellemere (Bellemere, 2019). We need to realize that our points of view are commodities that politicians and corporations abuse for their agendas. We must protect them with critical thinking for our sake and for that of society.

There are many examples of false and misleading news stories learned to be funded by corporations. Barbara McLintock (2004) relays a tale of deception, funded bias training, and blatant corruption practices on behalf of the tobacco industry.  In this example, after Philip Morris, a tobacco mogul, financially contributed to a school for journalism, he began what can only be called bias-training of impressionable journalists with seminars about second-hand smoke (para. 12).  It is not surprising that graduates of this school later wrote articles supporting the tobacco industry.

The idea of news media agencies as objective fact-tellers is a deep line of disinformation. It is so deep that we have taken it on as a kind of ethos, just like those families who believed in the veracity of Alternative Math (Ideaman, 2017).  As far back as the 1800ss, the news portrayed Indigenous peoples negatively using misleading content (Lisk, 2020, para. 8). Due, in part to the lie of objectivity, we blindly believed the typecasts like the “drunken Indian” (para. 8).  It was part of a vast conspiratorial movement perpetrated on society to engender stereotypes and hatred towards an entire race of people, making statues like the Indian Act possible.

Maybe journalists are scapegoats for the failure in news integrity. Yes, they play their part since they create the content, but it is a deeper problem that, as critical thinkers, we must scrutinize.  We must ask ourselves who is behind the agenda for the content. However, we also must look in the mirror. After all, if journalists are at fault for writing misinformation, what part does the consumer play? It would be all too easy to claim innocence, but we must own that we have far too long taken a back seat to our news consumption.  It is time to break the shackles of enslavement and reclaim our power as intelligent patrons of the news.

References

Bastani , A. (2021, June 7). Why The media can’t tell the truth on israel & palestine | The bastani Factor. Retrieved from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNGf6vv_qaY

Bellemere, A. (2019). The real ‘fake news’: how to spot misinformation and disinformation online. CBC News.

Ideaman. (2017, September 19). Alternative math | Short film. Retrieved from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zh3Yz3PiXZw

Lisk, S. (2020, September 3). Rewriting journalism: How Canadian media reinforces Indigenous stereotypes. Retrieved from TVO: https://www.tvo.org/article/rewriting-journalism-how-canadian-media-reinforces-indigenous-stereotypes

McLintock, B. (2004). Cancerous journalism. The Tyee, 4.

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