Like many crucial issues facing humanity, the covid 19 pandemic has caused a lot of outrage, confusion, and frustration as we try to navigate the mountains of conflicting media reports. It has shown us the cracks in how we exchange vital information.
No doubt we can all agree, there is a lot of misinformation. Many people are exasperated because they need sound information to make good choices. But when you are hearing a different story every day, how can you?
How does one decipher the facts from the myths? People have come to see the profession of Journalism, not as a useful resource, but a political weapon for mind control.
Propaganda is nothing new. A perfect example is Marie- Antionette, attributed to the saying, “Let them eat cake”. It was true she lived a lavish lifestyle and was unaware of the plight of the people.
Nonetheless, she was not the monster the media conveyed. She supposedly was promiscuous, emasculated her husband, and plotted the downfall of France. That quote, as well as many other terrible news items, said about her were nothing more than malicious gossip.
Not only did these stories blackened her reputation, but they were used as “evidence” in a court of law, which lead to her execution.
News is how people glean the information they need to make important choices. Yet, what if the facts are incorrect or missing? How can one make a good decision, without accurate, reliable information?
Now with the advent of social media, anyone can become a “journalist”; spread their ideas to the public. False information can spread quickly and lead to serious consequences.
Hatred and misunderstanding of different groups have led to “justified” violence by supposedly civilized people. These feelings that engender animosity and fear can easily be aroused by reports whose aim is to create public outrage instead of getting to the facts of the matter.
Media has a crucial role in society. It’s kind of like a knife. It can be used for good or evil. You can cut food with it, or use it against another person. Journalism is only effective if the facts are truthfully portrayed.
How do we create a journalistic system that meets the needs of the population?
Although it seems like there are no rules when it comes to media reports, journalism does come with its own set of standards. Abiding by them can make a source of information trustworthy, so that it benefits, instead of creates chaos.
The code of ethics for journalists;
- information should be truthful and accurate
- sources should be verified before publication
- a report should be comprehensive, giving all the facts, not manipulating the data
- news media should be loyal to the citizens who consume their content, not influenced by their advertisers or politicians
- they should tell all sides of the story and present various points of view
- information should be relevant to the audience
The role of journalism is not to control the minds of the public, but to provide the information required for individuals to make sound decisions.
Some think the resolution to the “fake news” epidemic that is plaguing society is to shut down all media or have them tightly controlled by the government. This would infringe on all our rights as citizens to freedom of speech, among other principals we so highly value in the free world.
So how can we resolve the issue of propaganda negatively influencing the minds of the people? First, as consumers of the news, we must demand high standards from our journalists. Second, we must educate the public to understand what constitutes as good, ethical journalism.
It is our job as journalists to educate the public. We play a central role in our communities. We have the power to influence those around us. With power comes responsibility, and if we don’t play by the rules to ensure our consumers are getting quality news, we should be held accountable.