Dumbing down our society

Bendigo Weekly | Bendigo Weekly | 21-Sep-2017

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I was at a conference a couple of weeks ago where a speaker kept ranting about fake news and its growth, and the media industry’s seemingly bland existence of this
phenomenon.

I find the term fake news to be derogatory to the news profession I love, and the shrug of the shoulders acceptance that something is fake news, extremely annoying.

The spread of false information is an attempt to mask the truth, and to a journalist, truth is paramount.

Just as the gutless king hit terminology once used to describe a serious assault was eventually replaced by something much more accurate and less sensationalised, fake news also needs a makeover to afford its incidence and even existence a title it both warrants and deserves.

We stopped calling it a king hit and now recognise it as a coward’s punch.

These sorts of baseless, rumours reported as facts, misleading assumptions etc, are definitely fake.

But they are not news.

Fake - yes.

News – no.

The term fake news has a level of acceptance within the media industry, and in our broader society, that is not tolerable.

It’s wrong, untrue, false, lies and often mere speculation, rumour and innuendo.

And none of the above should ever be borrowed and presented as an attempt at the news.  

If we accept fake news and allow it to flourish, we are guilty of dumbing down our society.

Honesty, integrity, accountability, transparency and truthfulness are important ingredients to just about everything, and we put them at risk by accepting the premise of fake news, without due consideration for the consequences.

I also find it difficult to accept Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc as what everyone else calls social media. 

Social – most of the time.

Media – often not.

This is part of the problem – we’ve diluted the true meaning of media, and broadened its definition to try and convince ourselves it’s become something it’s really not, and in the process we have severely damaged its reputation.

We all pay a price for that. 

Garbage in equals garbage out.

Our problem is we have lowered the bar to the extent that we now accept much of that garbage as content we are happy to read, share and believe.

It’s not unlike clickbait – the other extremely annoying practice where media outlets present ridiculous headlines and stories not deserving of one another and present it as news worthy of our clicking through.

Clickbait stories are more about generating website statistics that make an outlet appear to be more successful and better than it really is, and to the unassuming, it’s therefore worthy of our attention.

Once again, it’s a case of garbage in, garbage out.

And we’re better than that – all of us.

Or we should be.

twitter@peterkennedy23

pk@bendigopublishing.com

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