We have arrived at a special moment in our history, one that I hope is properly observed throughout our great nation. It is time for us all to ignore the news as presented on the Internet.
Now Matt, you’re in the print business. This idea sounds pretty self-serving to me. You’re right. It kind of is.
But just because the interests of little newspapers like mine are served better when you ignore online news reports – particularly those of the social media variety – doesn’t make me wrong about the stance I’m about to take against Internet news and its negative role in our society.
The plain truth is that many people are surprisingly bad at differentiating news reports from fake reports. And as it turns out, your average social media forum is fertile ground for the rascals of this world to plant the weeds of falsehood, which are in essence choking the life out of the crop of knowledge that also grows online.
Newspapers could report false news, too, right? But here’s the thing: the steps are in place for traditional media outlets to verify their reports, to take the extra time to make sure they are printing authentic, reviewed pieces of journalism.
Now, let’s be honest: when my publications run stories about dinners at Grandma’s house, or run a release about how J.R. just graduated from college, we aren’t toiling the way The Wall Street Journal must do in search of more intricate, involved news reports. We know who we are, and we know who we aren’t.
But items presented on the Internet are forgettable, changeable. Tweets can be deleted. Facebook posts can be edited or deleted. Snaps are gone about as soon as you give them a first look. If I print mistakes (spoiler: I inadvertently do), then they’re in print for eternity. No takebacks. No denials. I have to stand by my product, because its record will stand forever.
If I receive a letter from a reader, he or she must sign it in order for me even to consider using it for publication. But any idiot can sign up for a free email account, make a new Twitter account tied to it and post whatever he wants: the whole process doesn’t take 10 minutes, and the poster never has to use a real name or identify himself in any way.
It’s a virtual dumpster fire of bad information, but unlike an actual fire in an actual dumpster, the garbage never runs out, and the blaze never tapers off.
The worst part: a January report from Pew Research Center revealed that 36 percent of Americans access Facebook regularly for the purpose of getting news. Over a third of us go to a specific social media – social media – site to find news.
I remember 10 years ago when Facebook was where you went to connect with people from your high school days, or to look at pictures of what people cooked for dinner. Now, evidently, it’s where folks go to read (and I use the term read loosely) the brand of news that they best enjoy.
Well, that’s great, right? Everyone picking news that speaks their opinions back to them – why waste time listening to reports that challenge your perspectives on anything? And the fact that many items that appear as ‘news’ reports ate actually just blog posts or opinion pieces; what should we do about that? Read them like gospel, right?
Wrong. It’s all wrong.
So, my challenge is for you to ignore news coming from outlets that are not reviewed, verified news sources. If you are convinced that your source is giving you information that the other news sources won’t tell you, consider the fact that you are reading fake news, and its fakeness is the reason nobody else is reporting it.
A final tip: if an article has to agree with your perceptions to be ‘true,’ consider the possibility that it’s not ‘news’ that you are seeking; what you really want is for other people to validate your biases.
Matt Pearl owns and operates newspapers in King City, Albany and Grant City.