The Decline of Journalistic Integrity

We live in an age — the “information age” — that enables us to disseminate our thoughts with ease. This is great, because we are exposed to so many other points of view and this generally expands our horizons. However, this also has a particular impact on journalism.

In the past, people would be exposed to a limited number of media. You would have your radio, your newspaper and books. You would have the physical interaction with people. Television came along. Each one of them are channels through which ideas can flow through audio-visual means. Still, they would have a certain limited reach. It is really with the advent of large social media platforms like Twitter, Google+ and Facebook that any person using those services was able to express their own opinions and make them available to the wider audience. Those with a larger following had their thoughts exposed to more people.

This is fine, but many have started taking these unverified sources and their opinions as fact. Fact and subjective judgement began mixing together and the line separating them blurred. As a result, fake news rose to higher proportions. Most people just don’t have the time or couldn't bother to fact-check, and since every user becomes a potential conduit of misinformation, the magnitude of this chain effect increases.

As a user-base example, Facebook has 1.79 billion active users as of 2016.

Some cases of poor journalism can be more drastic than others. Threat to human life is very real, such as when an armed man decided to investigate the Pizzagate conspiracy by himself (revolving around paedophilia and the alleged Clinton involvement in it.) Of course, the onus is also on people who are not journalists but operate on very questionable, limited and unverifiable data themselves and arrive at these sorts of conclusions.

Should such topics be censored online, with discussion of them forbidden?Should people’s Tweets be approved by a third party before they are sent? While there are people who believe that, it is not very realistic and is just pretty dumb anyway. Free speech should not be suppressed, despite the potential misgivings.

Mainstream media and independent journalists need to review the data they collect and pay greater attention to it. There needs to be fact-checking. At the end of the day, the news stations are trying to make money like any other business and skew statistics and various other information to sell the stories better, but if this issue is not addressed in one way or another, we will soon find ourselves in a society with toxic levels of propaganda.

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