Watching news has become increasingly painful for the past two decades, with the demand for aspirin increasing exponentially, it seems, over the past three and a half months. At Mr Trump’s press conference last Thursday, he railed against the media’s alleged misrepresentation of his administration’s first thirty days. His less than artful dropping of phrases and words like, “I’m here to address the people”, “fake news”, and “bigly” was geared toward the base and served as a preamble to his campaign style rally in Melbourne, Florida the following day.
Mr Trump is using the media the way government is expected to use the media: as government’s mouthpiece. If a reporter isn’t getting a scoop from one of her contacts over lunch or at a conference, they are sitting next to a fact machine ready to copy edit and regurgitate the releases of a government agency communications office. Boring stuff. The writers getting the most play are the ones who can get some good hearsay and gossip thrown their way and spin a good yarn that in the end leaves the media consumer with no more valuable information at the end of the story as they had at the beginning.
It’s no wonder the media consumer is tired of the media and Mr Trump has masterfully tapped into this distrust. Only 32% of Americans have a great deal or fair amount of trust in the media, according to one Gallup poll. Lara Setrakian provided three ways to fix the media, including news built on deep-domain knowledge; a news industry pledge to “do no harm”; and embrace complexity because stories and solutions are not simplistic.
I disagree with Ms Setrakian. A news article should not provide any solutions because providing solutions means the risk of the journalist imparting some of their biased wisdom and viewpoints onto the media consumer. News should provide a summary of decisions an agency is expected to take or a summary of the action an agency took. It’s summaries should direct the media consumer directly to the underlying source of the summary so that the media consumer can do their own further analysis.
In other words, the media consumer should approach her consumption of news with empowerment. The media consumer should take on the responsibility of learning how to analyze the events around her so that she can make decisions that support her best interests without being subjected to an overly filtered news environment.
I have lessened my consumption of the mainstream fare over the last three months, instead focusing on announcements or decisions made by an agency or analyzing financial and economic data on my own. This is the ideal way to avoid the chances of fake news entering your timelines. I acknowledge that not everyone may have the technical skills to draw conclusions on what an agency action may mean. This is where the information provider should make available their subject matter experts to provide a technical, generalist explanation for a news item.
This is what your cable or newspaper subscription should be paying for; expert analysis that provides in-depth clarification of an event. You shouldn’t pay for Sean Hannity or Joy Ann Reid’s baseless blithering.