Monday, September 19, 2016

A Steady Diet of Lies

Eli Shively

We often hear, in this day and age, that the media feeds us lies. That the goal of the media is to brainwash the people. Obviously, as future media professionals, we know this isn't true — but what makes it such a popular public sentiment?

In the age of the Internet, blogging, and social media, anyone can deliver any amount of information to any amount of people. This, in essence, has broken the journalism industry wide open, but it's also made room for hundreds upon hundreds of 21st-century news outlets that cater to a specific niche. 

Nowadays, everyone gets to pick and choose exactly where they get their facts from, and the degree to which information is fabricated at times can be staggering. It's what some outlets see as their means of getting ahead.

A lot of people feel that major cable news is partisan and unfair.
Lying to persuade

This happens on both ends of the partisan spectrum. On one hand, the liberal arts and entertainment magazine Rolling Stone's scathingly critical feature on sexual assault at American universities, "A Rape On Campus," was found to be inconclusively sourced after an in-depth investigation of the piece by Columbia Journalism School.

On the right-wing side of the coin, Fox News has been accused of enhancing, or even fabricating, the truth for decades, to the point where many Americans no longer consider them a viable source for news.

Lying for speed

Certain outlets don't end up posting false information on purpose — they do so because they're in the business of getting the facts out there as quickly as possible. Take BuzzFeed, for example. Once considered a pure entertainment site, BuzzFeed has slowly pushed its way into the journalism world over the past few years and has been massively successful in doing so. However, they're just now hiring copy editors, after years in the news business, to ensure that everything they publish is factual. What does that say about how much the public cares about truth?

Oftentimes, as young journalists, we consider getting a story on our editor's desk as fast as possible, and getting all the facts right to be a balance that's difficult to attain. However, if we have to lie over and over to ensure our work gets done on time, the problem may be rooted in the culture of the profession.

Lying because we can

This brings us back, of course, to the public. If plagiarism and fabrication are so deeply rooted in the tradition of journalism, how long has our audience been letting us pull the wool over their eyes? It's pretty much impossible to tell, but one thing is for sure — if the media continues to be criticized by the public for lying and "brainwashing," it's not only up to us to try and weed out the liars and cheaters, it's up to them to hold us more accountable for our actions, as well. 

Everyone can do this by rewarding the honest, fair, and factual outlets with our viewership and readership instead of the ones that get what may or may not be the whole story into our hands the fastest. Weed out the cheaters, and a culture of honesty will follow.

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