“When there’s no information, or much worse wrong information, it can lead to calamitous decisions and clobber any attempts at vigorous debate. That’s why I produce the news”.
Welcome to the circus that has become “the news”.
There are many words used to describe journalists – political mouthpieces and gatekeepers being just a handful. Many entering the profession break in with the ambitious dream to deliver the hard hitting facts about the calamitous events that face the world. Little did they know that they would be covering Kim Kardashian’s emoji launch, and Donald Trump’s rise to the White House.
The tabloid press has been integral to the 2016 credibility crash of the news. Tabloid media assumed control decades ago, becoming more digestible forms of information. It allowed our sinister love of controversy to rise to the top, with misinformation at the heart of it. This type of information inflamed the masses with sensationalistic language that tended to divert from the former impartial rhetoric of the press. Gossip columns, astrology, celebrity interviews and scandal all became the focus, and a framing tool for PR’s. As a result, the facts that mattered got lost in the swill of voices.
Now, given the rise of crowdsourcing journalism, individuals have taken it upon themselves to assume the role of broadcasters as part of their shameless staunch to fame. Cue Tomi Lahren, a blonde embodiment of my worst nightmare.
Young Tomi possesses zero journalist qualifications, but she openly admits that. “I report on feeling, I report on emotion, I report on controversy. I’ve never once tried to mask myself as a journalist”. But she’s tapped into the tabloid trend, which is “whether you love [her] or hate [her], you’re still watching”. It’s sort of like a car chase; whilst you know it will end in flames, it’s impossible to look away. As Tomi so aptly states “controversy sells”.
In the high school popularity ladder opinion ranks a lot more highly than facts. We fall for clickbait and for falsities, because the news has become a competitive economy. Whoever delivers the catchiest headline, or the most Perez Hilton-like story, wins in the polls that day, irrespective of truth or validity.
I guess corporatists would argue that it’s “just good business”. Fake Facebook news reports have become their very own micro-economy in the Balkans, with teens producing eye-grabbing, emotional-toying and factually false stories that have generated hundreds of thousands of shares and likes. All the while their bank accounts soar. Several of the creators told Buzzfeed News is that they found “the best way to generate shares on Facebook is to publish sensationalist and often false content that caters to Trump supporters”. Ah, I rest my case.
All that said, there are glimmers of hope. The BBC has just confirmed that the first three episodes of Planet Earth II have attracted more viewers in the 16 to 34 age bracket than The X Factor on ITV. Facts > Fame.
I wish to close this rather long Ramblings instalment with a segment from my favourite show the Newsroom. This is the journey that must be taken by the media.
“Reclaiming journalism as an honourable profession. A nightly newscast that informs a debate worthy of a great nation. Civility, respect and a return to what’s important. The death of bitchiness, the death of gossip and voyeurism. Speaking truth to stupid, no demographic sweet spot, a place where we all come together.”