On Oscar Night in 2017, The New York Times ran an ad campaign that declared that “The truth is more important now than ever.” In a time where “fake news” is the buzz word of the moment, knowing what is the truth is becoming a hazy endeavor. Accusations have flung across the corporate and independent media, each accusing each other of being a purveyor of lies and misleading readers about what’s going on. Over the past few years of observing the news cycle, I have come up with my own truths about the media landscape we live in today.
The truth is that the media isn’t perfect and it will never be
The media derives its meaning from being a medium of exchange. Because this transfer of information from one place to another takes place, information is bound to get skewered from how you would perceive it. It’s like a game of telephone where how a statement begins is never the same of how it ends. Eyewitnesses all have their own subjective personal experience with an event who relay their information to journalists who then publish their interpretation of the event for wider distribution. The best journalists are the ones who make the fewest assumptions and make their best effort to leave their biases out. Unfortunately, in the ever-evolving world of online journalism, that is becoming harder to do.
The truth is that content is a drug
As we spend more time on Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, etc., we have to keep in mind that these apps are all designed to keep us on their products as long as possible. When you break it down, content is a drug, and it targets our attention. We seek information, and Facebook provides algorithms that custom cater content that reaffirms our preconceived beliefs about the world and feel good about being right. The stories that cross our screens are sometimes true but often are overdramatic renderings of what is happening in the world today. That is because, in the competitive market of someone’s time, the creator must do something to hook you to their brand of content.
The truth is that every content creator is fighting for your attention
From Youtube to Medium, a battle is waging to keep you between content creators for your attention. The Internet has shortened our attention spans drastically, and content creators are always experimenting with ways to increase engagement with their audience. Some vloggers use quick cuts to keep your eyes peeled; other bloggers use dramatic titles to draw you in. The truth is it is all a game for both the creator and viewer; The author is trying to provide their audience with a perspective that no one else has while the viewer is trying to find a creator that fits their worldview. The internet has made the relationship between the content creator and their audience much more fluid and personal; comments and tweets offer feedback at a moment’s notice and lets content creators know what their audience is looking for next. This ability to being able to exchange ideas with your audience rather just talking down to them puts internet content creators at an advantage over their corporate competitors who mainly operate on television.
The truth is that the corporate media model is outdated
The internet has completely decentralized how information flows to the masses. Commentators on Youtube are having a wider reach than their corporate television competitors. Corporate media is at an inherent disadvantage today as they have become slow-moving bureaucratic organizations that are beholden to their advertisers and shareholders; the majority of the independent internet media is weightless relative to their corporate competitors. As trust in corporate mass media reaches an all-time low, the gap will only get wider as people turn away from their television monitors and plug into their computers to stay informed. Granted there are independent media organizations on both sides of the political spectrum that do skewer the truth, but calling them out and finding more reliable sources have never been easier.
The truth is you need rely on more than one source to get the truth
Just reading one article from one source about an event is the same thing as seeing the tip of the iceberg; you are not getting the full story. To paint the complete picture, reading different viewpoints of the same event will help you paint an accurate deception of what happened. To really get to the bottom of an event, the most important thing to do is to learn about the history leading up to it. By understanding the causes of an event and educating yourself about it, you put yourself in a unique position to know what happened and articulate it to others.