Fake News is a very real concern that has been hijacked by the political industry to serve their interests. Most notably used by President Donald Trump to disarm and deflect criticism away from himself, Fake News has been dramatized to the point that the issue has been thoroughly trivialized, thereby minimizing the chances that any meaningful action will be taken to address Fake News. The Fake News issue arose, because professional news outlets were picking up fabricated news reports then sharing and propagating them across the entire news industry, which falsely validated the content as fact. In a literal sense, Fake News is only untrue news, but it has come to encompass much more.
Actual Fake News undermines the credibility of new outlets and misinforms the public. More importantly, it allows those who inject fake news into the news cycle to further their financial and political interests through propaganda and the general manipulation of public perception. Beyond Fake News, there is also over- publicized news and news that is largely irrelevant to the target audiences: news that is not newsworthy. When something happens or the potential for something happening is great enough to discuss, it is news. What news is covered by news outlets depends greatly on what journalists, editors, and managers decide is newsworthy. Thanks to internet search engines, the public has greater influence over what news receives global attention, but traditional news providers still impact what news is investigated and presented as news.
The rise of the internet means the world no longer needs the Press to amass and share easily available information as it has traditionally done. What the world needs from professional media outlets is investigative journalism that uncovers and verifies information that escapes the view of the public. The world also needs journalism that filters, sorts, and verifies the massive amount of data available in order to help identify what is fact and what is not. As for analysis and commentary, the professional media cannot simply be a platform for experts to share their professional views. The Press must provide scrutiny of the thinking and practices of alleged experts. Journalists are expected to communicate relevant information to readers. It is, therefore, an ethical obligation for journalists to ask questions that their audiences might find relevant.
That said, it is when the reporters, journalists, news editors, and managers of news outlets either fail to publicly recognize and compensate for their bias or use their positions to intentionally push a political agenda without stating their intentions that news coverage becomes a disservice. Like politicians, businessmen, national security officials, and other influential figures, those in the news industry are affected by their personal bias while they are also susceptible to the force of corruption. The Information Age has created a need to organize and analyze a never ending supply of new information in order to make that information use useful, so journalists are more important than ever. Through ethics and transparency, which includes the declaration of one’s positions and possible conflicts of interests, the harmful effects of personal and professional bias can be minimized.
Ethics for the journalists require these professionals show no favoritism toward or against a public figure for the sake of personal gain or other considerations. Clearly, everybody has their own bigotries. As such, transparency, when a potential conflict of interest arises, is a requirement. Much of the time, journalists must report nothing more than the facts; however, many stories oblige writers to interpret the facts to make them useful. This means journalists must also recognize when their personal views influence their analysis. When watching the news or reading a newspaper article, we are often expected to trust the validity of the opinions and other assertions that the professionals featured in these news reports make without understanding the assumptions and methodology that resulted in their conclusions.
Just consider how two people might look at the exact same facts and come up with two opposing conclusions that are both correct to some degree. The apparent contradiction is explained by the fact that every individual has his or her own perspective, which has been developed from a lifetime of personal, educational, and professional experiences. Analysts do not simply rely on their own perspectives or even the facts. What analysts, including journalists and industry experts, learn to do is view information through different perspectives and best-fit models that allow them to interpret information in a more consistent, accurate manner. This “intellectual architecture,” a.k.a. philosophy, worldview, etc., comes from the shaping of one’s thinking through training and other experiences as an individual learns how new information relates to already known information.
Using intellectual architectures, analysts are able to more effectively acquire, process, and utilize vast amounts of new information. The primary education system of the West actually gives students the intellectual architecture needed to comprehend the world with varying degrees of objectivity and function in our globalized society. When individuals are lacking the intellectual architecture needed to understand complex issues or two individuals are utilizing two incompatible worldviews, they cannot effectively comprehend and address issues that affect them or come to a viable resolution. Unfortunately, outdated worldviews among paid analysts and the failure to recruit innovative minds into all relevant fields has created a deficient of the intellectually architecture needed to craft novel solutions to prevailing crises. It is the role of analysts and journalists to overcome this deficit.
Unfortunately, journalist will, and do, abuse the power of the Press by scrutinizing the actions of leaders, who they dislike and whose policies they oppose, until they find something trivial to create scandal over. A journalist lacking ethics is a very dangerous person, especially if he, or she, is seen as a credible source. After all, a journalist, whose job is to improve communication between influencers and the general public, is capable of significantly altering how the world functions. A journalist must have integrity, a sense of responsibility, and a desire to offer transparent, constructive reports. It cannot be the goal of a journalist to cause harm for the sake of journalistic recognition. Although integrity requires writers to honestly report their findings, there is also a need for balance. Facing potentially destructive findings, it is the responsibility of journalists to show a way forward as well as to facilitate the healing of the damage done by their coverage.
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