This blog is written by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Posts appear Monday, Wednesday & Friday.
SPOTLIGHT: Media skepticism appears to be widespread.
BIG PICTURE: Producing accurate and complete news stories has always been challenging. Many facts aren’t available or apparent, especially when a story is first breaking. News organizations value speed, so there’s often a limit on how much background research can be done.
As children we’re encouraged to view something printed in the newspaper as the gospel truth. In reality, it’s only the “first rough draft of history.” It’s neither definitive nor the whole story.
Journalists have always been fallible human beings, with biases and blind spots. But much of the news-consuming public continues to be unsophisticated. For example, many aren’t clear on the difference between a straight up news article, a columnist’s analysis/opinion, and an editorial reflecting a newspaper’s official position.
Whether we call it the mainstream media or the legacy media, skepticism about the veracity of news reports now appears to be widespread. In my view, this a healthy development. Skepticism is always warranted. The admonition to ‘Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see,’ has always been rather good advice.
Nevertheless, it’s a depressing time to be a journalist. We all used to imagine that the covers of Time magazine and The Economist told the truth. That National Geographic, Oxford University Press, and the New York Academy of Sciences Magazine were reliable sources of information. That publicly funded broadcasters were reasonably evenhanded. This is no longer the case.
The Internet is awash in memes that reflect and fuel media skepticism. Here’s a sample:
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