The media navigate between lies and truth

Stephane Madaule, a writer in the La Croix International, gives his take on the media navigating between lies and truth in an article posted on 23 Nov 2017.

What do the media and social networks prefer: lies or the truth?

This is a question that can certainly be asked with regard to many media spaces. Indeed, sensationalist news is often more eye-catching than the truth. And it only serves to increase our appetites as consumers of information.

This stuff fills up blank spaces in the media agenda. At times, it obscures news that media outlets want to conceal. Fake news takes the place of real news.

According to news networks, information that is broadcast is more or less well controlled. Editorial teams are useful in separating the wheat from the chaff, even though it’s not always easy to come to unanimous decisions about the broadcasting of doubtful or erroneous news items.

The ethics of journalism and the credibility of news agencies are often effective in stopping the broadcasting of fake news. Nonetheless, the positions taken by news agencies in all media (written, televised or on the internet) do not necessarily prevent lapses from occurring.

On social networks, there is no control. All opinions, advice and certainties on any topic are available to anyone. It’s a source of information that has no rules or principles.

Only an adequate amount of awareness and education, and the application of a critical mindset, can help us to avoid being taken in by fake news that has no supporting evidence or that is deliberately misleading.

On social media, everyone is a broadcaster and his or her own editor. When these people are celebrities or represent a respectable institution or possess a certain credibility thanks to their position or status, things become all the more cloudy and complicated when they post fake news or misleading information – for example, on media such as Twitter.

In this kind of scenario, traditional media unfortunately have a propensity to pass on whatever happens to be all over social media that everyone is talking about. So the information or opinion becomes a given that is very difficult to refute. In fact, it immediately gains legitimacy – merely because so many people are reading it and relating to it.

To counter this, certain serious media outlets have devoted space and time to the decoding and critical analysis of fake news in order to refute it more effectively.

However, in economic terms, sensationalist, misleading and fallacious news often makes the front page – grabbing attention and the income that comes with it. Then, this fake news leads to the publication of a follow-up of analysis and debunking, which is, again, attention-grabbing and profitable.

What we can hope for is a media space free of scurrilous rubbish, a space where fake news doesn’t obscure the real news resulting in a cycle of endless publishing and debunking.

Clearly, lies are attention-grabbing. However, the truth must win in the long term, especially when it aims to disseminate real information to people – even if they are often gullible to conspiracy theories or lies intended to capture media space.

The most effective barrier against fake news and lies is made up of education, morality, ethics and editorial committees: credibility in the long term.

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