By Neal Lemery
Everyone seems to be a critic these days, taking their most disliked media outlet to task, heaping scorn and stink-eye, badmouthing them to any and all who will listen. For many of us, bashing the media has become a form of sport. Oh, but not MY favorite publications. We should all love what they say. Those views are sacrosanct, filling my daily media intake with truth and justice.
It’s the bad media I can loathe from the comfort of my chair, “those” evil, distrusted writers and organizations. After all, greedy American media has led us into war, riled public sentiment and changed attitudes, redirected social change, and created massive consumer demand. The all powerful media, we scream, quickly condemning them, yet still paying attention to what “they” have to say. “They” are too powerful, too corporate, yet we keep watching the TV broadcasts and the news feeds on our computers.
We are nastier if the issues are near and dear, and the local reporter is shining a spotlight. Somehow, we get louder when the topic and the politics are in the neighborhood.
We’re all in the business now, too. Our own opinions, comments, even the cheap shots and the whines, go out in our social media, unfiltered and raw. Unlike the “old school” media outlets, we don’t need to sell advertising and attract subscribers to stay afloat, make our payroll, and feed our kids. We can just “let it fly” and we do, often with reckless abandon and little regard for the consequences or whether what we post is “true”. We like the entertainment and drama of it all, too, though I don’t think we often admit that.
For the fringe element of the media, truth is often not highly valued or cherished. Yet, conscientious journalists, professionals, strive to make this a better world, to bring truth and accuracy to the stories they report. Often, they labor for seemingly endless hours, pursuing dead end leads, reluctant sources, and concerted efforts to conceal the truth. But for these dedicated professionals, fraud, distortion and corruption would run unchecked and unnoticed. Our institutions and our aspirations to have an informed, civic minded electorate are often at risk by those who would hide the truth, lie, and manipulate information.
Seeking the truth, even it is inconvenient, disquieting, uncomfortable, is an aspiration I try to work towards. On my best days, I want objective, completely fact-based reporting. Yet, I often find myself looking for those articles and videos that are in alignment with my own perceptions, my biases, and my bigotry. It is a subtle process, this dipping into the murky pool of information and the noisy, messy discourse of public life in this country. I still find myself hungry for confirmation that yes, my views are, of course, correct, and it’s about time other people realize that.
I can think I’m better informed than most people, yet talk about a subjective, biased opinion! By any objective test, I remain prone to my own take on important issues. After all, it is hard to move out of my comfort zone, my own “stinking thinking” and not change my point of view. To do so would be to admit that I am not as smart as I think I am, that I bring my own rose-colored glasses to the table. I want my favored politicians to prevail, to be seen by all as the most competent, the most able to take on our national issues.
I pick and choose the voices that I think should be heard, because, after all, I’m right and I know that my favorite writers and media sources are always right, always accurate, and of course, always express the preferred way of thinking about tough subjects.
When reality interferes with that, and confirmed sources stare me in the face, I might have to admit I’m wrong, or, at the least, say that there is a different point of view other than my own. I might have to work to understand another point of view. I might even have to grow in my own thinking, and, gasp, change my mind.
This confrontation, this search for the real truth, bruises my ego, and upsets my complacent view of the world according to me.
Occasionally, I do some old-fashioned soul work. I read columnists with opposing views. I read books by people who take my views of the world to task. I talk with people at the other end of the local political spectrum, trying to open my mind to a different point of view.
Such work is often daunting, but I do change. I even might grow, surprising myself that new ideas can work their way into my mind, and compel a change of heart. I might even become a better educated citizen of the community.
I might even have to agree that a certain media outlet, a certain reporter, helped make that happen.