The Media Landscape’s Shifting Regarding News
Those of you of a certain age may remember the TV commercial for hair color that said it left your hair looking so real that “only your hairdresser knows for sure.” Do you remember that? At least she had a hairdresser to tell us if the color was fake or real.
In today’s over-saturated news universe, there is no one person, organization or source totally without bias. None can be unequivocally trusted by every single citizen. These days, if the skies turned purple and a booming voice heard round the world shouted out answers clearly in every known language, you may wonder if there’d be naysayers who refuted its existence. But if it really happened, is it “fake news?”
The skeptics in our society serve a purpose. They keep us all honest. Skeptics question everything they read or hear. They always ask for proof, for substance. They enjoy playing the devil’s advocate to make us question our assumptions to the core. For every faction who says they’re right, there are an equal number of people who believe just the opposite. Even facts are in dispute today. Welcome to the era of fake news.
It’s very unsettling. It’s troublesome when you have to take a poll to find out which apple is organic and which is laden with so many chemicals that it’s toxic. If you picked it from the tree yourself, does that mean it’s safe? You see water falling from the sky, yet you’re told that it’s not raining. What can you do when you can’t even trust your own senses? When does fake news start to become surreal?
Pick a Side, Any Side
As a former journalist and as a writer who today produces copy that’s read by many, Linda Ray of Ray Access has always prided herself in fair and accurate reporting. Everything she writes is researched from reputable sources. She checks the “About Us” page on websites to find out if they have potential conflicts that make their information questionable. She goes to original sources whenever possible to hear directly from the “horse’s mouth” what was said … or whinnied.
But does that matter anymore? Like beauty, fake news may lie in the eye of the beholder (or the reader). Upon learning a source’s political leanings, gender, age, race, sexual orientation, all of these things or none of them, do you believe the source more if the characteristics of the writer are more like your own? Would you simply dismiss out of hand every notion from someone who’s different from you?
In other words, is the source of information an actual fountain of credibility today? Is reality objective or subjective? Does first-hand experience mean anything at all or does it mean everything, meaning anything outside your experience can’t be trusted? Is education itself a sham? Does one plus one equal three?
Only Time Can Tell
When doomsayers proclaim that the world will end next week by a giant meteor hurtling toward earth, some people believe it to be true. The impending disaster becomes news. When the week passes without incident, does it become fake news? And if so, do all those who went about their business, not believing a word of it, sit around over their usual morning coffee and say, “See? I was right, and you were wrong.”
But a problem remains, a problem similar to that of the boy who cried wolf. When a real planet flings itself out of orbit next year and we need to take shelter, that bell has been rung already. No one believes the scam the second time around. It’s immediately declared fake news without follow-up. The boy cried wolf too many times and lost his credibility.
Perhaps the only truth in today’s world is found in the lens of hindsight. Only by living through each day can we look back and see what was real news and what was fake news. And only by continuing to question each and every assertion can we comfortably say goodnight in peace, knowing that the answers will come tomorrow — that the only real news is yesterday’s news.