Irresponsible journalism: When will we say enough? Written by Brendan Mooney Psychologist
The media is a powerful medium with the potential to communicate vast amounts of information to millions of people all at once. This is amazing as the potential to truly connect with each other on a grand scale has never been easier or more practical. However with great potential comes great responsibility.
Given one person (e.g. a journalist) can broadcast their point of view to potentially millions of people more easily than ever before in history, great integrity and responsibility is required for those in these positions. Furthermore, accountability in the highest regard is also required given the impact one person’s irresponsible actions can have on so many, often resulting in vast ramifications not only for those directly involved but for the world at large.
The internet has made media much more prolific than ever before, with many competitors on the market including multiple social media outlets that did not exist in the past. Hence there is more pressure than ever for journalists to write a story that sells.
In its simplest form, the purpose of public media is to convey the truth, the facts. Unfortunately less than this if not very far away from it is commonplace in the media today. This is called media abuse although in many cases this type of abuse has seemingly become ‘acceptable’ within our society, rather than ensuring that we have systems in place that fully address and prevent this type of conduct from occurring.
An example of media abuse is trial by media which relies solely on the premise that opinion equals truth. The key is to discern whether what is being said is actually true, in other words based on factual evidence, or is what being said:
Opinion or hearsay presented as ‘fact’, usually ‘verified’ by a ‘source’.
Insinuating or implying something because there is no evidence to support stating it directly.
Taking something out of context such that the original meaning or understanding of the facts becomes lost.
Using the word ‘alleged’ before a label or statement, allowing a journalist to use labels or statements without needing to substantiate with evidence.
Blatant lies or made-up ‘facts’. In particular once a lie has been printed it is often considered a legitimate source to reprint even if it was not substantiated to begin with. This relies on the false belief that the more often something is repeated the more credibility it has or must have.
The above are some examples of abuse in media.
In another context, most of us would likely know what harm can occur when a lie or mistruth circulates amongst colleagues within a workplace, hence consider the harm done when this form of communication is broadcast to millions of people. As a society we ought to take a very deep look at the true impact this scale of hearsay or unsubstantiated opinion has on an individual, their family, their friends, their work colleagues and the local community in which they live. For if we do not acknowledge the true cost of media abuse in our world we will not be moved to bring more accountability to those who choose to behave in such irresponsible ways.
To ask the blindingly obvious question:
Is it possible that the media is a medium that can be used by those who wish to spread their personal dislike or hatred towards another or others because currently there are no real accountability measures in place to stop this form of abuse?
If so, how has it become possible for one person to abuse another or others in such a public way? Why have we as a society not acted sufficiently to stop the true impact of public ‘name and shame’ on our fellow members of society?
To put it more specifically:
Where has basic decency and respect gone that holds people accountable for their conduct but does not humiliate or denigrate them in the process?
We are all part of the world we live in and therefore we are all responsible for the quality of world we will have. After all, we are the ones buying the papers and/or subscribing to media sources online. The answer is not to turn a blind eye for that is what we have been doing for eons. Whilst there are those who deliberately abuse it is us the majority who allow it, this has always been the case throughout history. If the masses do not accept it then it ceases to exist, for there is no bedrock for the relatively few who abuse to get away with it. Hence the responsibility for all of us to claim the quality of world we wish to have and live within.
In the end we ought to never forget that we are talking about people here. Those who harm are people, the media and other systems we use have been created by people, and those who are harmed are people too.
Irrespective of whether one agrees or disagrees with another’s opinion or conduct, we all deserve to be treated with decency and respect.
The longer we put up with irresponsible journalism the more our world becomes polluted with information that results in a less than true world. At what point will we as a society stop supporting misinformation, uninformed opinion and/or blatant discrimination and hatred towards others disguised as genuine reporting?
Or to consider an even more important question:
Are we ready for truth and facts to be printed in full? Whilst we may express that we do not want abuse in media anymore, if as a community we are not willing for truth and facts to be printed in full then we will continue to tolerate media abuse irrespective of our claim to not like it. In other words, we cannot say no to abuse and no to truth at the same time.
Hence the final consideration for us all:
Are we willing to take more personal responsibility in being far more honest within our own homes, workplaces and local communities regarding any abuse we witness but do not speak up about and/or address in full? Are we willing to raise our own personal standard of what we consider abuse to be, and in doing so accept nothing less than this so that all others may be inspired to equally live the same?
The answers to the above questions will ultimately determine the quality of media we will choose to accept if not demand within our world at large.
More will be written in an upcoming series of articles on this topic. If you would like to read more be sure to subscribe to receive email updates.
BIOGRAPHY Psychologist Brendan Mooney works with adults, adolescents and children. With a genuine interest in people's well-being, Brendan brings a warmth, practicality and an equality that supports clients to truly address underlying issues and blockages that are preventing them from moving forward.