Thursday, March 28, 2024

The Uninformed Preaching to the Disinterested: A Lament for Modern Journalism

"Red, Black & Blue" Ink on paper.
The image of the intrepid journalist, unearthing truth and holding power accountable, has been romanticized for centuries. But in today's media landscape, a disquieting truth emerges: the "fourth estate" might be more akin to the "uninformed preaching to the uninterested."

There are any number of reasons journalism has now gotten a bad name. First, we've seen an erosion of journalistic standards that discerning media viewers have been turned off by. The talking heads have had their biases for decades, but when we (Boomer gen) were growing up the networks at least made an attempt to appear "fair" in the coverage.

Then there's the pressure for clicks and virality, which often trumps rigorous fact-checking and nuanced reporting. Echo chambers and confirmation bias reign supreme, with news outlets catering to pre-existing beliefs rather than challenging them. This creates a self-referential ecosystem where journalists preach to their own, amplifying their personal biases without engaging the wider public.

Add to this the rise of citizen journalism, blurring the lines between professional reporting and personal opinion. This is where we need to exercise discernment and fact-check before sharing. Unverified claims and emotional appeals can drown out fact-based reporting, and if you go around sharing some of that drivel, don't blame the Russians when someone else calls you out.

One consequence of this decline of local news is an information vacuum that breeds apathy and disengagement. When citizens feel disconnected from the issues and institutions that impact their daily lives, they are less likely to be interested in or actively consume news. This disinterest further fuels the perception of journalists as irrelevant and out of touch.

Dismissing all journalists as uninformed is obviously a dangerous and silly oversimplification. Many dedicated professionals strive to uphold the highest standards of ethical reporting. Investigative journalists continue to expose injustices, and thoughtful commentators provide valuable analysis and context.

The true challenge lies in bridging the gap between these dedicated professionals and a disengaged public. Clickbait headlines are not the answer.

The path forward for journalism should not be paved with lamentations, but with renewed dedication to its core principles: informing, educating, and holding power accountable. Only by regaining the public's trust and fostering a genuine interest in news can journalists reclaim their vital role in a healthy democracy.

Will it happen? It's a challenge.

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