In a period like the present which is so notoriously transitional we need them more than ever. Today’s news story is tomorrow’s history. How can we forego historic truths?
Has the social media dealt a fatal blow to the ethics and integrity of journalism, a profession that was revered since its first beginnings in ancient Rome of the daily Acta Diurna, a hand-written bulletin displayed in Rome’s public square (59 BC-222 AD).
Notwithstanding the addiction created by social media, should there not be a standard by which undeniable truths are adhered to? It seems not, judging by the reckless manner in which journalists pick their news, embellish them, omit them, or fabricate them.
Erroneous news repeated often enough are soon believed by the public, regardless of their source. How reckless is journalism today to fool men and women of considerable esteem, who rely on the Internet for their news.
Some of us still remember the golden era, when we were glued to our newspapers as early as breakfast in the morning, with our coffee and eggs. We loved our newspapers, we trusted their editors — factual, honest, accurate.
The 1960s witnessed the birth of televised news which stole some of the lustre of the written word — our daily newspaper. However, we can still recall how the whole family gathered around the TV in the 1960s and 1970s for the evening or night news. Newscasters became our heroes, respected, believable, beloved friends, even stars in their own right. We hung on every word they uttered. We had confidence in what we saw and heard.
Whether it was TV, radio or newspapers, our source of news was relegated to men and women who adhered to a code, written or unwritten, to inform the public of the truth.
Nothing should excuse inaccuracy, was the law of journalism, a responsibility not taken lightly then.
Where are those journalists today — those public watchdogs over the doings and misdoings of the powerful, the influential, the rulers and lawmakers.
Freedom of the press is essential in any democracy, together with freedom of speech. It was included in the Swedish constitution in 1766, a decade before the US constitution. However, this never meant to be an abuse of this freedom, by fabricating untruths and presenting them as facts.
Robert Edward Turner, better known as Ted Turner conceived of a novel idea for news addicts. Why not a 24-hour Cable News Network (CNN)? Established in 1980 CNN became the favoured drug for news junkies. Other networks followed suit, but CNN took a giant leap towards a global popularity.
We started to notice that certain events were taking more air-time than others. The glaring omission of atrocities on the West Bank was one of them.
A change of ownership made it obvious that news on CNN was biased to the extreme left.
Enter FOX News owned by magnate Rupert Murdoch challenging CNN, with an obvious lean to the right, despite claims of being “fair, balanced and unafraid”.
Cable news networks are owned by individuals or companies whose principles and ideas guide and direct the highlights and lowlights of their content, yet call themselves purveyors of news.
Perhaps unknowingly viewers are turned off by network or cable news, because of their apparent bias to one side or another. Are there other options to get our news?
Social media peered its ugly head inundating us with unfair, unbalanced fake news and we have fallen victims to a soulless medium that will not relent.
Only 24 per cent of people worldwide watch news or read newspapers. Truth is available nowhere, anyway.
Media corruption has broken modern media.
During the 1960s and 70s, known as the golden age of news, news was inescapable. Even musical channels on radio or TV provided newsbreaks and news bulletins. You could not avoid news then, nor did you wish to.
Today it is so easy to avoid news,just watch movies or music channels all day. Why bother with unreliable, embellished, altered or diminished news?
Can you get an accurate assessment of the Ukraine/Russia war in the US? This is the bastion of democracy, free speech, free press and all the rest, now its news media is deceptive, misinformed, misleading and totally biased.
The media and the press, once known as journalism, seem to be blind to what is obvious to the rest of us.
What a bad job of selecting and reporting the news. It is self-destructing before our very eyes.
Is technology supposed to help us progress or regress?
So much has been lost to technology, we yearn for the good old days, for butter, for naturally-grown foods, for good manners and respect of privacy. Give us back our old-fashioned traditions, take back your Facebook and your Twitter. We need the time to read meaningful books and good newspapers.
Professor Thomas Patterson of Harvard hit the nail on the head when he stated that the media is “untrustworthy, irrelevant and inaccurate”, and we say Amen to that.
Six-hundred news correspondents died on the battlefield, during the last two decades. They did not cover the wars by using their cell phones.
Give us back our good old days, our newspapers written by honest journalists who check their facts and do not deceive us.
Give us back true journalism. Give us back truth.
“There can be no higher law in journalism than to tell the truth and shame the devil.”
Walter Lippmann (1889-1974)
* A version of this article appears in print in the 21 September, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly