MC's Whispers

Whispering Silences

Archive for the tag “masses”

Rumors and hearsay

http://www.gannett-cdn.com/-mm-/141517f253ab9e1241ebf6f00e11909b0df2beac/c=194-0-1726-1152&r=x404&c=534x401/local/-/media/2016/05/02/USATODAY/USATODAY/635977841744798894-3535.jpgRick had fulfilled his childhood dream of becoming an astronaut since he joined the Space Agency’s training programme from a young age as one of the most promising members who had ever passed through. Now, being one of the most prominent young astronauts, demonstrating potential, skills and responsibility that were rare for his generation, he eagerly awaited his first grand mission.

It was not long before he was assigned it.

Once astronomers discovered a planet 40 million light-years away that could possibly have sustained (or is still home to) life forms similar to those of Earth, Rick knew this was his mission. He had dedicated his life to this and was ready for the launch.

Space orbiting offered a solitude like no other. It was a confinement that, despite the responsibilities and work that had to be carried out, provided ample time to think, to literally gaze at the Earth from a distance and revise his perspective on everything.

But once Rick was in space he knew that his mission and the next – uncertain – years of his life would be spent chasing a reported discovery, which could not be proven unless someone reached its core.

Back on Earth, conspiracy theorists and alien fanatics relied on rumors and hearsay to strengthen their arguments.

So did pretty much everyone who was too lazy or naïve to search for a holistic approach to everyday developments. As a result, people remained restrained in their perceptions of what they heard, accepting news without questioning anything and allowing themselves to be manipulated by anyone who was a bit more devious and cunning than the masses.

And all the while, the spaceman was skidding through the solar system in search of a rumor of a planet that may very well have already vanished…

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Solitude

Speaking Truth to ‘Stupid’: Reestablishing Dignity in Journalism

AB15521Journalism was once described as the Fourth Estate: a watchdog of the elites, informing and protecting the masses. People looked to it for the truth. Today, information is propelled from every direction, medium, and person. Does the power of the Fourth Estate still exist, and if not, how do we reclaim it?

More people today choose to avoid the news at all costs. Especially political news, since all they appear to do is replicate the status quo, with politicians lining up to give their own position on developments (if any), while not even staying long enough to listen to opposing positions. It almost feels like we live in a world that doesn’t want to be changed. But, it is the civil responsibility of journalists to change this by presenting hard-core facts, inspire debate and fuel a desire for improvement.

With The Newsroom Season 3 having just begun, and Kill the Messenger recently hitting the big screens, journalism seems to have returned to centre stage, not that it ever left. But right now, it seems this profession has become all the more important, especially since journalists are sacrificing their lives in order to reveal information that is critical for public safety.

The aforementioned film is based on the true story of journalist Gary Webb and takes place in the mid-1990s, when Webb uncovered the role of the CIA in arming Contra rebels in Nicaragua and importing cocaine into California. Despite enormous pressure, Webb chose to pursue the story and went public with his evidence. As a result, he became the target of a vicious smear campaign fueled by the CIA and was forced to defend his integrity, his family, and his life, even reaching the point of suicide.

Consider the recent example of Serena Shim, an American journalist of Lebanese origin who disclosed that ISIS jihadists were being smuggled into Turkey and back into Syria in the back of humanitarian aid vehicles. Just days later, she was reportedly killed in a car crash with a heavy-duty vehicle. The second car was never found, raising suspicions as to the true cause of her death. Shim is not alone. Journalists around the world are regularly threatened against publishing information that is their disposal. In 2013, approximately 100 journalists were killed, while so far 64 journalists have lost their lives this year, fighting for what they believe in.

But journalism no longer seems to really be what it used to. Journalists are often characterised as “the Fourth Estate”, a term originally used by Edmund Burke, who in 1787 said that the Reporters’ Gallery in the British House of Commons was where a Fourth Estate, which was more important than the other three, took its seat. Since then, a lot has changed in journalism. Although there are some who criticise the government, many argue that journalism has become part of the ruling estate rather than an objective observer of it.

Journalism became a vulnerable profession with the rise of digital media. However, the economic crisis struck a large blow causing salaries and media revenue to decrease. Churnalism has taken the place of investigative journalism and reporters of all stripes simply find it easier to replicate press releases, instead of researching, analysing and criticising power to provide citizens with informed explanations of current affairs. There is also “citizen journalism” which has blurred the definition of who is a journalist. Furthermore, claims blast from every direction, often without any credible evidence to support them. Yet, this is what sells and what is seemingly desired by the public. This is an age where global terrorism is real and no longer an imminent threat; where people are more interested in exchanging narcissistic selfies rather than improving social welfare; and where everyone complains but few take action. Now, more than ever, is the time for journalism to reclaim its lost vigour, grace and glamour.

People want to read the news. They no longer accept bad journalism, as they want to learn what is going on quickly, simply and clearly; to be informed, not mocked. As MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) told Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) on the first episode of The Newsroom: We need to reclaim the fourth estate; to rebrand journalism as an honourable profession; to produce news that informs and stimulates debates characterised by civility and respect; and return to what is important. It needs to end ‘bitchiness, gossip and voyeurism.’ We need “to speak the truth to stupid,” because we need to actually believe that the audience is not stupid. In reality, it is composed of intelligent people who we should address as such. If we treat people as if they were stupid, that is who they will be, but, if we refer to them as intelligent people who have a say in bringing about change, then that is who they will become. Journalism is not simply about conveying news and arousing the wrath of the masses. It is about communicating information and enabling the audience to develop a clear awareness about what is happening in the world and how things might change, for the better, and for the benefit of all of us.

 

First published on Cafébabel.com and translated into French and Italian.

Going in for the news, staying for the gossip

Big-NewsEvery good journalist knows that for a story to be newsworthy it should be interesting, unusual, with an element of novelty and proximity, and above all worth reading. New York Sun editor John B. Bogart best summed this up in one phrase: “When a dog bites a man, that is not news, because it happens so often. But if a man bites a dog, that is news.”

But every media professional knows that for a story to be newsworthy it simply needs to gain the attention of the audience, and…sell. That is why tabloids and gossip magazines tend to have a wider reach than the more “serious” press. Because people after all are more interested in gossip – in the lives of others – and “light” social news, than what goes on around them.

The “real” news is not whether Parliament passed a bill on a tax measure, or whether a civil war broke out in the Middle East; it is rather whether a known celebrity has given birth, or whether an actor got married. As such, the birth of the royal baby on 22 July gained an unprecedented extensive coverage globally, overshadowing the fact that a 6R earthquake in China killed 94 people, or that the conflict in Syria was fueled when rebels seized a northern town in the Aleppo province. Instead of that, millions of people gathered in endless crowds to stand for hours outside a hospital, when news of the birth would come from the palace, and viewers from around the world tuned in to watch the 24 hour coverage of what was dubbed as “news”, but in essence was nothing more than gossip – people of all sorts, simply stating their opinion on camera. The Private Eye was perhaps most satirical (and realistic) about this, stating what was obvious – that a woman had a baby.

But people are interested in news such as this for the mere reason that it involves people who are prominent, celebrities; people who are believed to live a life of luxury and glamour, carefree, and comfortable, getting to do exactly what they want without thinking twice about it. It’s as if these people are part of a different world unbeknown to the common masses that read these gossip columns.

People love to talk about each other. Isn’t that the reason why everyone logs onto social media sites? It’s not to read about the meeting of ministers that took place this afternoon. No. It’s to see who’s dating who, and to get up-to-date with all the latest “hot” pieces of “news”.  It’s what fascinates people. And it is certainly much more fast-paced and ‘enjoyable’ than the usual stalemate and repetition of politics.

It’s the sensationalized stories that sell, the ones that reach out to the humane and curious nature of mankind, the ones that offer a variation to the troubled lives of the masses, and the ones that say something different. Perhaps that is a message the people’s representatives should receive loud and clear (if they care about public life that is, and are not idiots) – that in essence they are not even newsworthy any more.

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