- Loading ...
Posted on December 17, 2007
Information overload has never been more real. Today we can get information about any topic that interests us, from Britney’s latest exploits to the political climate in Turkey, with just a click of the mouse. Between the Internet with its myriad news and information sources; hundreds of television channels, many that cover only one topic; and the usual suspects of newspapers, magazines and the nightly news, there’s little we can’t uncover. Unfortunately, this explosion in media options has brought confusion about legitimacy and agenda of those reporting news.
Let’s be honest, people who work outside the news and communication industries have always had some trouble discerning paid advertising from editorial content. I often still explain the difference between a news article and an advertorial and clarify why reporters are better contacts for news placement than publishers. But it’s getting trickier every day to recognize what is news and what has been paid for. When “Seinfeld” first featured Junior Mints in the infamous episode where one of the candies falls into a character’s body cavity during surgery, no money changed hands. The show’s writers came up with the idea and cleared it with the candy company. The result a home run for the brand, as the candy was etched into the minds of Americans discussing the previous evening’s episode around the water cooler. Today, companies regularly pay big bucks to have their brand written into a story line.
For journalists, those who report the facts from all angles to help the public understand important issues, ethical issues abound in these confusing times. Transparency is of the utmost importance for these professionals. At newspapers, reporters are often barred from openly participating in political campaigns to avoid any signs of an agenda. Of course, that doesn’t mean each reporter does not have his own political leanings, but his job is to report all sides of a story and let the reader make a decision. Credibility is undermined in a world where entire “news” stations have clear political agendas and everyone from Pulitzer Prize winners to the housewife down the street is calling themselves a “journalist.”
This information era brings about many exciting possibilities. When more people have a voice, it’s much more difficult for corruption to flourish. A blogger inside any company has the power to expose unethical practices. Technology buoys communication and provides new forums for younger generations to participate in the political process, as the recent YouTube presidential debate demonstrated. Stories that never would have been told in the past now have a outlet and an audience. It’s an exciting time for media consumers and those with a story to tell.
Of course, with all this information available, it’s easy to get jaded. So much of what you find isn’t true, it’s easy to ignore the whole lot. Savvy media consumers will take the time to understand where a story is coming from and why a particular pundit takes a certain stand. Most who hear the news will simply side with those who spout similar views to their own, a dangerous proposition in a country that thrives on discussion of ideas. Still more will tune out the noise altogether, choosing mindless fodder instead. But for those who want the truth – about almost anything – it’s out there. If you take the time to find it.