Honestly, I was dreading this week’s discussion about civil discourse and what is going on in our news this week. I am so sick of the Presidential Election to the point where I actually shut off the debate about a half hour in and just can’t bare to listen to anything regarding either Trump or Clinton. At this point, it is a ton of pettiness, yelling, and lies shoved down our, the viewers, throats and I can’t stand it. I have become so politically disinterested in this election due more to the nature of our news and than the candidates overall, although I can’t stand either one of them. So instead of speaking about the election and how disinterested I am in it, I am instead going to flip the script and talk about how 24/7 networks have instead changed the nature of journalism and how we see the news and are involved in civic discourse.
I do not like 24/7 news outlets, so I struggled with having to watch or look at their websites. I don’t like the rush for information that isn’t always true. The media has turned into an instantaneous program that is more about getting the information out there than getting the information correct. As a society, we shouldn’t stand for this. While we should want to know what is happening in our world and as fast as possible, we should also want the correct information. News outlets are more about “deliver now, fact check later”, and it is really sad to see how the “progression” in journalism has basically taken a step backwards.
Going back to Good Night and Good Luck and the real life situation surrounding journalist Edward Murrow as he took on Senator Joseph McCarthy, we can see the backwards steps the journalism has taken. Murrow and his team looked at all the facts and reported on them as quickly as possible but with a sense of truth in them. This was in the early 1950s. We are in 2016. We have access to better technology that is not only faster to receive, but to fact check and guarantee the correct information gets out. While this should happen, it often doesn’t and people are left with misinformation that comes too quickly. I get that the times are different and things move faster today and are more easily accessible, but the same standards of journalism should be held. No journalist should even want to put their name on an article or a newscast without the correct information.
In some instances, the giving of misinformation can cause emotional reactions in people and make people react hastily. One event in which I remember this happening is with the Sandy Hook shooting. For the three hours I watched CNN during this tragedy, the wrong person was identified as the shooter. For at least three hours one man had his face all over national television networks and social media and was receiving threats that were unwarranted. Similar instances in which not all the facts were checked and determined true include a Rolling Stone article involving a rape at a fraternity house in which all the facts did not line up and were not true when further investigated, Brian Williams’ fabricated details of some of his adventures in the field in which he became basically blackballed from his profession, and even dates back to the 1998 discovery of fabricated articles by Stephen Glass in Vanity Fair.
Until the police and the news have the correct information that is fact checked with identifiable witnesses, information should not be released. Everything should be 100 percent fact checked before it is given to the public. While I understand the need to report the story first and to gain more viewers on their channel over others, it is in no way needed to compromise journalistic integrity. As in a scene of the ABC show “Designated Survivor”, when the FBI was 75 percent sure that a specific terrorist group was responsible for setting off the bomb that destroyed the Capitol Building and were pushing to attack, Kiefer Sutherland said to come back when they were 100 percent sure and he will launch an attack, as he does not want to start something when not all the facts are given and may not be true. The same standards should be held for journalism and 24/7 news, especially when people’s livelihoods and innocence are at stake.
While not very recent, I did find an article explaining times in 2013 where media, from local newspapers to national televised networks, had misinformation in them. For anyone interested it is here.
What does this have to do with civic discourse? Civic discourse is the way in which we
“engage in conversation to enhance understanding” (Wikipedia). If we, as a society, do not get all the correct facts, it is hard for us to gain an understanding. When misinformation is constantly given and corrected later on, it can affect the conversations we have as a country about the issues in our nation and can affect what we, as Americans, deem important or as pivotal in our country. Sometimes, emotions and bias run wild and speak over the facts, not allowing everybody to get informed with the correct information and have an educated discussion about what is happening and how we can change it. While bias and emotion can have a place in discussion, it does not belong in the reporting of information. Journalists and reporters should encourage discussion and leave people to form their own biases, not focus on one aspect of a story and what their own beliefs are. They should be subjective and focus more on getting the story out to the public so they can form their own opinions rather than those of the viewpoint of others.
This is why I cannot stand 24/7 media and feel so disinterested with the current state of news and the 2016 election. With all the bias and fighting, especially the last few months when it is predominantly about Trump, Clinton, and the election, it is hard to see through the BS and get the facts to have an educated discussion on what is going on in our world and how we can change it. At this point, everything is about their personal lives and their pasts and not about what they are saying and what they will do for our country. News and media is all about bias and opinions, and sometimes it is hard to get subjective facts of an event or a person so that I can form my own opinion and not have one shoved down my throat. While the media is one cause for the misinformation and lack of true discussions as a society, which are based off individual opinions and not those of the news reporter, the fact that as a nation we accept this sort of “news” as “facts” is appalling and something we should not stand for. Sadly, as a society we have gotten used to this format of news reporting and it is now the climate of our news today and the standards for future generations of newscasters, journalists, and audiences.
Title and Image Gif credit to Set It Off and their song “Bleak December”
Wikipedia Definition of Civil Discourse: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_discourse