There’s power in the media. Still, today, we’re still influenced by things we read or see or otherwise receive from the media.
Part of it is presentation and packaging. If something looks professional, we mentally assign a level of credibility. Conversely, if it looks cheap or poorly produced, it is easier to dismiss.
Tonight, a friend and colleague forwarded along a link to an article he though I’d find interesting, since it was about the industry in which I work. He was right; the article was extremely compelling. Despite it being quite long, I read it immediately and entirely.
I mean, how could I stop? The article was complete and utter trash. Biased, reporting that showed the writer’s contempt for the fair and balanced journalism. But it looked good and appeared on a website that also appeared to publish other credible articles.
If I didn’t know something about the topic (i.e., I work in the industry), I’d read the article and think, “wow, look at these corrupt bastards who beat the system, someone should go get them!” That’s probably what many people thought when they read the article.
It’s not like yelling “fire” in a crowded movie theater, but it is dangerous in a different way. People who read it may assume that the writer was reporting honestly and accurately. Checking facts and getting both sides of the story. Checks and balances.
That’s not what happened, and fortunately there were a fair amount of posts that called out that writer on his biased article. Good for them. No censorship was required here, because the community recognized the writer’s unfair bias and challenged his slanted reporting.
In the days of old media, there was usually an editorial staff, which included reviewers who checked facts. They didn’t always get it right, but at least there were multiple sets of eyes reviewing copy before it went to the printer. Sure there were always articles that leaned to the left or to the right, but good editors often forced reporters to tell both sides of the story. To let the readers make up their own minds. And very biased articles usually found a home on the OpEd page, where strong opinions were welcome, facts be damned.
But now the world is changing, sometimes even for the better. Journalism and reporting has certainly changed, both for better and for worse. Often articles (including this blog post) go from they keyboard to the web without anyone but the writer reviewing it before it goes live. Nobody is required to fact check anymore.
And now, as with before, don’t believe everything you read out there.