Thanks to social media, we live in an age that is simultaneously the best and worst environment for journalism and reporting that there has ever been. We have access to countless sources of news that spring up instantly after global phenomenon, political debate and sporting achievements. All it takes is a few swipes of a finger and you can have a general knowledge about any known topic in existence. We are better informed than ever and yet we are also exposed to vindictive, biased journalism masquerading as truth. That isn’t even to mention the ‘fake news’ which is slowly saturating our Facebook feeds and has even infiltrated such administrations as the White House.
Journalism today is not typically based on objectivity, but rather is designed to catch and hold our attention and therefore sell its publication to us. In the same way little rewards hook us to games, or small cliffhangers keep us attached to our TV screens, journalism is twisting headlines to the flashy and scandalous in an attempt to draw us (and clicks) into a story we would otherwise ignore. Look no further then to recent U.S. election cycle to identify the media’s thirst for such drama. Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders both had their campaigns globally advertised, as media companies such as Fox News, CNN and BBC (just to name a select few), bit onto controversial information they knew would cause a stir and attempt to outdo other reporting stations. Every time Trump spoke he was belittled and laughed at by left-wing and central media factions as a racist and a fascist. When Bernie took to the podium, he was deemed a communist by right-wing and central parties, fueling the memory of terror that communism instilled in the twentieth century. However accurate these assessments may have been, these journalists collected every bit of drama they could find and often blew it into erroneous conjecture. Sanders’ planned health care reforms were not ‘revolutionary’ and Trump’s move to tax foreign imports weren’t always racially motivated, but that doesn’t matter because there is a story to sell and outrage as currency.
So desperate is the state of modern-day journalism to sell a story, journalists don’t always attempt to hide their motives in finding new angles. In February 2016, following a performance by Beyoncé at the Superbowl Halftime Show – journalist Alex Collins from the BBC asked on Twitter for someone ‘who [could] say that it was inappropriate that her performance was political.’ For the record, the ‘controversial performance’ of Beyoncé was of Formation which alluded to the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality, and Collins, instead of asking for an array of opinions from the public over her performance, Collins obtained an angle he thought would entice readers and ignored an objective journalistic approach. It is a sad reality that journalism has become corrupted to the extent where the traditional method of reporting fact has been lost in favour of being able to sell drama and debate, but only look at the effect of social media and one can understand why.
You no longer need to work at leading media outlets to broadcast news. All too often, we are told about various world events from any random bystander who happened to be there. So where does that leave the journalist? They can’t be the first to report the story (someone else has done that) so they need to find a new angle and many are unscrupulous in how they manufacture it.
Now I enjoy news as much as any other, and I am almost solely reliant on social media and the internet for supplying world events and the occasional Married at First Sight update, but increasingly I am becoming more cynical over this system of contemporary journalism and reporting. After all, there is only so many times I can stomach walking into a full-blooded family dinner table debate armed to the hilt with what turns out to be misguided information and the spread of fake news. The system of journalism that we have is corrupted and flawed – but given the nature of our technological era – maybe that is just the reality we have to accept.