815 The Media, Fake News & Integrity


An after-dinner conversation brought up some home-truths ... that shocked me. When we discussed the state of world affairs, I referred to some media reports and was bluntly told that the media can’t be trusted, it’s biased, skewed by the corporations who own the media outlet and who dictate to the journalists the direction of reporting to follow; and for that reason there is no point in reading the paper or watching tv news … like I said, I was shocked.


I mean, we’re used to that line of argument from entities like Donald Trump, who deem “the media” liars (especially CNN) ... perpetrators who spread “fake news”. Their followers get “news” from Facebook, or The Donald’s tweets; the result is that we have as “leader of the free world” a POTUS who lies incessantly and who - due to his bewitchment of his supporters - gets away with it. Furthermore, who - due to his glaring egocentricity and the fact that he is cocooned from people who tell the truth (apparently he watches Fox News exclusively), and indeed his sheer stupidity - potentially may lead us straight into WWIII.


So, I made the point that, yes, there’s biased media - print & tv - but it is everyone’s obligation to seek out reliable sources; my example inevitably being my local paper, the Sydney Morning Herald. Here are some excerpts from their Code Of Ethics:



Herald staff will report and interpret honestly, striving for accuracy, fairness and disclosure of all essential facts. They will not suppress or distort relevant facts. They will do their utmost to offer the right of reply, and they will separate comment from news.



Staff will not allow personal interest, or any belief or commitment, to undermine their accuracy, fairness or independence.



Staff will not allow advertising or other commercial considerations to undermine accuracy, fairness or independence, or to influence the nature of the Herald's coverage.


These values, set out in the Herald's first editorial, have guided the paper for more than 170 years. Our most valuable asset is our integrity, and it is this that the code is designed to protect.



You may go and do something silly: Walk up to a diligent, proud of their job, award-winning journalist and propose to him/her that their writing is influenced by the opinions and interests of their employer. You'll be met with well deserved derision (exceptions apply, see below). 

If you need confirmation just watch some old Jon Stewart on Comedy Central (sadly he has resigned, replaced by the brilliant  Trevor Noah, see him on Netflix) and his pounding of Fox News; or tune in to Media Watch on our ABC (Mondays).

Frankly, to be discerning instead of just blanket-rejecting “the media” is paramount; it's a no-brainer, we need the media to inform us. In my book  en.light.en.ment  I have an essay  DUTY  which I amended - just for the purpose of this blog - to add another dimension to what our duty is:

Indeed, not doing so … testing the available media sources and seeking out the reliable ones like The Sydney Morning Herald, The Conversation, ABC, SBS and overseas the BBC, The NY Times, The Boston Globe, The Guardian and The Washington Post (while staying away from Murdoch owned media, such as The Australian [ok, here is a caveat: I accept The Australian is a quality newspaper ... nevertheless it is very conservative; indeed, due to too close an association to their owner] and Fox News; and the hundreds of opinion driven internet-based so called "news-services" (especially Facebook, as a source of news) ... is shamefully lazy.

Update: Today in the paper "Facebook combats influencers"

Allow me to indulgence myself by including here the last words from my book ...

... as well as the first words of the intro:

Oh, yes, and don’t forget to always maintain doubt, don’t be certain about anything, question everything.