Sunday, May 15, 2016

Problems of the press

Journalism isn't what it used to be. Of course there never was a time of perfectly independent hard hitting journalism. However, that's what good reporters strove for.

There are some built in problems to the way news is produced. One major issue is the way most news is financed: through advertising. It doesn't matter if you are a national TV network or the local town paper, writing bad things about your advertisers is not encouraged.

Another huge problem is access. If you write bad things about politicians, no matter how true, your access to the whole political class will be curtailed. Those who are willing to softball questions will get to ask them and they will get in print. A journalist can only go so long without getting articles printed. Those articles often require at least some access to the primary source.

It's not just politicians anymore either. Powerful business people can do pretty much the same thing, plus they have the additional power of advertising dollars -double threat.

War zone journalism has gotten a lot more dangerous. Those not embedded with the military are treated like enemy combatants. Do you think those embedded journalist will write a lot of negative things about the people they are sharing day to day life with?

At one time so called terrorist groups rarely killed journalists. They were useful. A “revolutionary” needed the press to get his message out. Now, thanks to being able to put their own message out on the Internet, the outside journalist is not needed. More often than not they are considered a threat.

We are at a weird point in history. At one time independent people like the best journalists would get the facts out. Different political factions might have strong disagreements how to deal with the facts, but the facts themselves were generally accepted by all. Now every faction has their own spokespeople, claiming to be journalists, who can't even agree on the basic facts.

What's a person to do? It's easy to just list to the “journalists” who say the things you want to hear. It's much harder to hear things that disagree with your own prejudices. It's troubling to discover the world is not the what you believed it to be. No matter. Force yourself to get information from outside your bubble. Listen to those who's politics you disagree with.

Another good source of news is foreign news services. Their, outside-looking-in, viewpoint can have a much clearer take on the situation. It's tough to see the forest when surrounded by all those darn trees. I find foreign news sources to be good, except for the times when they have a dog in the race. For example: don't expect Russian news to give unbiased views of increased US military presence in Europe. With that in mind it is possible to get a clearer view of things from someone outside.

While good journalism is rarer than ever, the need for it has never been greater.



  1. watch the oppositions so i know what they are up to.
    saw regular tv when i was in the nursing home rehab 2 weeks ago.
    horrifying the twist put on everything and what seems to be the ignorance of the talking heads.
    watch foreign news on the internet. husband is able to read between the lines and get some idea of what is actually transpiring.
    must look at and read more than one source.

    1. Multiple sources are a big help; so is being able to read between the lines.

      It is interesting to discover about a New England issue, not in local sources, but in a newspaper from Australia. That happened to me once. Eventually the story came in a one of the local papers, but buried deep inside the paper and only glossed over the issue.

  2. I remember Radio Havana during Vietnam. It was biased as heck, but you DID hear things the US press wouldn't tell you, you just didn't know whether to believe them or not!

    1. I listened to them a few times back then and thought it was all lies. Imagine my surprise to discover they were actually telling the truth on some big issues. It was our own government doing the big lies.

  3. The old days of true news stories are nearly gone, for sure! We need true news backed by fact, like you said!

    1. It's frustrating to be a journalist when you really do want to get the facts out. Never gets past the editor.

  4. I get better news from the foreign newspapers on line. First thing I check in the morning.

    1. I grew up listening to a lot of news out of Canada because we are close enough to the border to get the stations.