Honesty is, for the most part, less profitable than dishonesty.
This idea of manipulative information wielded against the better interest of the masses speaks directly to the problems that have arisen within Western media landscapes. Both in news media, and in social media. This has led to an overwhelming distrust of media, particularly news media. It is important to note that distrust of media is not a 21st century phenomenon. On the contrary, it has been around as long as we have had media. To this point, the famous statement—usually attributed to Mark Twain, who lived from the mid to late 1800s—says, “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you read the newspaper, you’re misinformed” and is a sentiment that speaks directly to the heart of this new movement. In a world where man seeks knowledge, and relies on the entities that are presented as having knowledge only to find those entities deal in misinformation and manipulation. This fuels distrust and this renewed distrust has created a new sort of social movement: one against false information; if all that is needed for a social movement to exist is a collective of people coming together for a shared cause, with long-term goals of some change in society occurring. The fans of this new movement have been flamed with phases such as “fake news” or “alternative facts” and has led individuals and governmental entities alike, to bring suits and lead social media campaigns against both mainstream media outlets and Social media conglomerates. Though these sorts of terms can be reductive, and can alienate some from engaging in civil discourse that might otherwise lead both sides to truth or knowledge, they are not altogether incorrectly laid at society’s feet. Especially, when we see cases like that of the Covington Catholic School kids.
In the past, news media had predominately been plagued by a must-be-first-to-report mentality, but that inclination has evolved somewhat.
Not only is there still a need to be first to report—which can lead to the proliferation of inaccurate information and the need for corrections—there is also a profit-driven motive behind journalistic reporting, with the steady decline in news ratings over the last few years, due to alternate forms of media and increased competition.
As a result of this market-driven style of journalism, news has become somewhat sensationalized and fear-focused, in order to increase viewership (Thussu 2010). People seem to be rejecting this sort of news delivery method, however, as public distrust in media is at all-time highs. According to a recent Gallup poll, trust in news media rests at about 46% overall: 42% among those who identify politically as Independent; 76% among Democrats; and 21% among Republicans. Interestingly, the level of trust is lowest in those aged under 30, which sits at 33%. To be fair, these numbers are slowly rising, though they still sit at historic lows.
The video below, from an award-winning former journalist for CBS News, touches a bit on this:
The problem with the rhetorical nature of news organizations having a focus on sensationalism, means that truth cannot fully be sought. Predominantly because, “fear-based news relies on dramatic anecdotes in place of scientific evidence, promoting isolated events as trends, depicting categories of people as dangerous, and replacing optimism with fatalistic thinking” (Glassner 1999).
In a recent panel of journalists, well-known journalist Ted Koppel speaks on the state of journalism, in relation to politics and ratings, which bears somewhat on the topic at hand.