Every day I wake up and wonder what kind of fresh hell that the Trump administration will rain on the public. That I have to consider how they’ll erode civil liberties today, maybe by systematically attacking the administrative state of the nation, by turning back the clock on trans-rights, or by pointlessly attacking marijuana. But hey, maybe none of that’s your thing? Maybe you just aren’t overtly concerned with any of these things because they don’t directly effect you. But you damn sure better get concerned, whichever side of the aisle you’re on, if you think it’s cool that Trump has started to cherry pick the media that he allows to cover him. You know like this (*editor’s note: thanks a lot Trump for making Godwin’s Law a thing of the past).
I could literally start this article from any one of a thousand debates of the merits of this or that story, be it in the very real trend of fake news, perpetrated by ambitious entrepreneurs, a social experiment gone horribly awry, or other governments using the media as a propaganda tool to undermine national security, a threat that at least some in charge have seen coming. You see, that’s the thing: the premise of “fake news” is so all encompassing that in so many ways it has become a matter of national urgency. Of course, it’s a local phenomenon too, with our governor decrying sources that he disagrees with in a bid to subvert the checks and balances of free speech. It seems that no matter where you turn, from politicians to political pundits, amateur or otherwise, someone has something to say about the veracity of the media.
The problem isn’t in media criticism. There are some wonderful media critics in our town, that take an analytical, data driven approach to reporting that reinforces what may otherwise read as an op-ed piece with cited sources. The problem isn’t criticism, but the blanket statement that said criticism is lobbed in conversation, written or otherwise, that the media is bias. You see it everywhere and on both sides of the political spectrum, people suggesting that “the media” is this or that. It’s that broad sweeping generalization here that paints the media in broad strokes, an illogical argument through and through; it’s not a mistrust of “the media,” but rather “the media that you disagree with.” Because chances are there are other forms of media that you do believe, which is how you developed said biases.
There is no secret cabal of journalists plotting to advance the right or left, other than the editorial staff at whatever publication, because if there is, I want my money honey. Even then, it’s often a careful balance of generating interesting (read: marketable) content and telling as objective a story as possible. Unfortunately, that content has and likely will continue to provide a platform for bigotry and regressive rhetoric, under the guise of an interview or debate. But really, is it a debate when one person seeks to deny basic (spoiler: equal) rights to another or when they’re position is purely anti-science? Clearly, I would contest that it’s not.
I ask you not to criticize media, but to consider the source. You probably know or have at least surmised, how to filter through fake news: sources matter. Scale matters in terms of data. Don’t cherry pick facts. And more importantly, don’t support, either financially or by dissemination any source that doesn’t pass that scrutiny. Does an article start off with clear bias? Does it purport an undefined and unbreakable “truth?” If so, avoid.
But really, why beat around the bush? Access to information isn’t a right, it’s a freedom, and let’s not take it for granted. Support the media that does matter to you, financially if possible, or through sharing if nothing else. This shit isn’t free. Researching a story is hard and time consuming work.
Don’t worry about the haters out there with an anti-intellectual chip on their shoulder, a projection of a fragile ego. Show the world the facts, as verifiable by as a broad base as possible. I need to remain confident that the truth will, eventually, win out, and that scientific certainty, for example, remains just that, a fact mutable only by new and reproducible research. If a politician wants you take it straight from there mouth, run. They have their best interests in mind and nothing more. If a politician refuses to remain transparent, take notes. Prepare. But don’t write off all media as inherently wrong, because it doesn’t support your narrative. That’s not only patently absurd, but ignores the fact that you are only basing that information on different information from different media.
To be clear: what we do here is hella fun, but we’re also not heading down to Frankfort and beating down doors. We’re not doing the legwork of a real journalist, “real” in terms of the seriousness of the coverage. We try to back our words with a variety of sources from reputable outlets, and to not talk out of turn. We also make no bones about our politics, so in that sense, we’re certainly biased to our own perspectives. Whatever the case, we’re all very happy to give the community a platform to speak, and to give a voice to the voiceless, whether that’s through our tireless coverage of the music scene, or in asking the people most effected by the world around them to voice their opinions in as public a forum as possible.
The press matters, whether it’s inconvenient or not. Everyone reading this should be very concerned about this attack on the credibility of the press, because without them, there are no checks and balances on the truth, and the truth matters. Just think about it: if this is a sign of things to come -and let’s hope it’s not- then things like this will become more and more common, with the prevailing narrative going to those with the most to gain.