Is The News Really The News?
Most of us will agree that the decline in quality of journalism is a serious problem in this country. One reason for the problem in the broadcast media is the lack of government oversight and almost no regulation.
Once upon a time, the Federal Communications Commission had the regulatory authority to ensure real competition by preventing one broadcasting company from essentially monopolizing any given market and by requiring radio and TV stations to give equal time to individuals or organizations attacked on their air.
That’s gone now and all that remains is the potential for abuse. For instance, one company, iHeartRadio, owns more than 800 radio stations across the country. Here in Hawaii, one company owns two of the four television stations in Honolulu. That used to be prohibited. What’s worse, those two stations share one newsroom.
On a national level, even if you agree with their politics, Fox News is an affront to the most fundamental principles of good journalism. And from Fox, it’s just a short hop-skip-and-jump to the latest and most disgraceful devolution of all: the fake news websites. Their content is lapped up by their own variety of zealot, then disseminated by way of the social media to many millions of innocent, gullible and incurious members of the public.
Ann Auman is a journalism professor at the University of Hawaii teaching news literacy, media ethics and editing. She instructs her students on how to “deconstruct” a news story in order to end up with a reasonably good idea as to whether or not it’s the product of solid journalism or fake crap filled with lies intended only to sway your vote. Among others, her list of check points helps to determine if there are other credible individuals who will confirm the facts on which the opinions are based.
The common denominator, and the ultimate enabler for all these problems, is the internet. That’s where most of us get our news now and, practically speaking, there is no way to know if that news item that has caught your eye is true or not. Meantime, because all that fake news is free, the legitimate print media is struggling, while they try to convince us to pay for their on line content.
I pay, and gladly. My on line subscriptions include the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and Honolulu Civil Beat for local news; the New York Times and The Washington Post for national and international news; and to the Boston Globe for news and for their Red Sox coverage.
The information they bring to my electronic doorstep every morning these days is terribly discouraging. But at least it’s the truth.