Integrity is the moral standing stone of journalism. Without objectivity and validity behind the words of reporters, what are we? As the watchdogs of society, our job is clear: To convey information. When the truthfulness of that information is compromised we lose the trust of the public, the audience who depend on us, and we fail in using our entrusted power for accuracy and credibility.
The media can demonise. It can create folk devils. It’s happened before. Look at the Amanda Knox case. We can blow things out of proportion or we can help to sweep them under the rug. Sociological theories suggest 70% of crime goes unrecorded, for a multitude of reasons, and is known as ‘the dark figure’. If this is to be the case, in what society should we allow the people in whom we trust to give us the news, an already brief kaleidoscope of need-to-know societal events, to add falsehoods for personal or political gain?
A study showed 30% of fake news to be traced back to Facebook, which leads me onto one of the bigger questions that this phenomenon imposes: Is social media to blame? Contemporary society boasts knowledge at your fingertips, ready at the swipe, touch or click of a button, screen or device. With so many sources of potential news and data, how does one weed out the illegitimate from the legitimate? Don’t trust what you read online, everyone used to say, but that’s becoming less of a reality as the consumption of digitalised media becomes commonplace. Social media certainly makes it easier for fake news to spread, using moral panic, but fake news dates back to medieval times.
The blame game gives us a scapegoat, someone to point the finger toward and chastise. Sadly, this isn’t one of those instances that’s as black and white as you’re wrong and I’m right. If people didn’t have hidden agendas, fake news stories wouldn’t be the potent threat they are today. Journalists are people, with goals and desires that may contradict the ethics and theory of their work. The move away from print media has also added to the fact that it’s easier to put something out there in the big worldwide web. While all of these factors are not inherently bad, they also cannot be stopped as we continue to move in the direction of the digital.
Where does that leave us? Us; the journalists, the audiences, the victims of fraudulence. We each pose distinct differences that can mean the way I perceive something is not the way you perceive something. So what would telling everyone to decide by themselves what’s true or what’s not garner? Going back to the original question, if journalists don’t have objectivity and validity what does that make us? An ordinary civilian with a coin’s flip chance of figuring out the truth? To be honest, I don’t have an answer because I don’t have the whole truth. Neither do you. We each live with our fragments of truth.