I think it only right that I begin my journey into discussing/debating current issues with the topic of media. Contemporary media has become so much more than mere distribution of factual events and schedules. Media in our day is a multi-billion dollar business; a weapon of choice, even a suckled teat to some. With all of the rhetoric, banter, and finger pointing running rampant throughout our society, it is easy to get lost down the rabbit hole of discerning realities.
In setting the parameters for this discussion, I realize how wide stretching the term “media” may be. For this reason, I am limiting it to the Merriam Webster definition for students: “the system and organizations of communication through which information is spread to a large number of people”. Further refining this, I will limit this to include only information that is considered “news”, which sets our threshold for discussion at news in print form, radio and television broadcasts, and Internet news sites. From this I will pose my questions, and state opinion.
What do you see as the role of contemporary media? Is it limited to purely mass dissemination of events that affect a given peoples, or is it possible that media has evolved to take on more roles in society? As a youth, the news media to me was the all-knowing outlet from which the majority of my decisions were made (or made for me). Fewer stations (both radio and television) meant choices were limited to which one portrayed life better/more realistic, and which anchors or hosts emoted more closely to the way I did. I wasn’t concerned about an outlet that was considered “left-leaning” or otherwise. Hell, I didn’t truly grasp that concept, as it was taught to us that the news was the news. Period. Not until my career in the military did I begin to realize how subtle nuances clearly displayed such biases. Media, to me, went from the omnipotent yogi on high who provided me with all of life’s vital information, to the man on the alley fast-talking you as he peddles his knock-off or stolen wares. Evening news and morning papers as the staples of education became twisted into 24 hour news stations claiming everything as “Breaking News” or “Alert” and print outlets pushing over the boundaries of all ethical guidelines just to say “you heard it here first” for ratings. Education was replaced by the businesses bottom lines.
Ethical line jumping is nothing new, it’s just more prevalent now due to technology. Lack of responsibility in media appears to be the new norm. This begs the question, what responsibility does media have to the populace? Now that media outlets are gigantic conglomerates with worldwide reach, and potentially endless coffers, what holds them to any modicum of ethical standards? When we witness daily bouts of contradictory reports about the same incident, and endless streams of “photo shopped “ snippets from all portions of society, what are we to believe? How do we delineate the legitimate publishers of factual information from those mouthpieces selling their airtime and soul to the highest bidder? Are we even allowed to question the validity of any of them? At what point does what they consider news become them expressing their right of free speech? With the recent “Fake News” drama being touted at every turn, why is it that all of these media outlets continue to draw ever-increasing numbers of followers? We as a society are recognizing CNN, MSNBC, FOX, and others heavily spin their brand of information in order to fulfill their investors desires, yet we continue to mindlessly hang on their every syllable as if it were our lifeblood. Having said that, do we now have a responsibility to ourselves, the “greater good”, or even to the media to speak up and set the record straight? How does this all fit in to functioning of the supposed greatest country in the world?