Can we really trust the media?

I maybe wrong, but I am of the opinion we are all influenced by what we read and watch in the media, to varying extents, and what we read and watch is to some extent governed by our own prejudices and opinions, which then reinforces the prejudices and opinions we already hold. In mitigation, if the media (read: newspapers, magazines; watch: television and video – nowadays superseded by social media and Internet usage) is trustworthy then this need not be such a big deal, but the big question, and a hot one given all sides of the culture wars frequently accuse the others of being fake news, is can we really trust the media?

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A long while ago, I came to a view that the answer was “to some extent” but it depended on what media (there used to be a distinction between the quality press with stated political biases but was reckoned to be fairish and the tabloid press which wasn’t) but I was not in a position (and still am not despite being a lot more aware) to decide to what extent what I read and watch gives a fair reflection of the truth. This is no light matter if, like me, you believe truth to be of paramount importance. And it is not a matter of merely accurately reporting the facts, for the very process of doing this often reflects one’s own beliefs.  Moreover, selection of what material to present may be a means of controlling the narrative, and while over the years I have come across some fine journalists who are prepared to sacrifice even their own lives in order to present the pertinent facts, it seems to me often those who own / control the publications have the final say, and there is a propensity to cut corners in order to get scoops and attract readers.

While like most I read from sources that tend to align more with my opinions, I try to read widely and check out information that is presented from various sources in my quest for truth. Many years ago I began to subscribe to Time magazine because it reported things that were important not normally covered in the British press. A few years ago, mindful of the culture wars and the “gay agenda” often clashing with the “Christian” one, I began to read the online publication: “Pink News”. While reporting from a pro-gay perspective, in those early days at least I found what they reported pretty fair. When a few years back I saw a lot of anti-Israel reporting on social media, I sought to balance that by reading online “Israel Today”. Often when it comes to reading online news, I resort to “the Guardian”, not a newspaper always sympathetic with my more conservative news. Having recent discovered “Infowars”, I read the “Huffington Post” too. I regularly check out both Fox News and the BBC. Most recently covered is the Drudge Report, which I understand is a must for truth seekers. I could go on. My main regret is I do not read enough.

One of the reasons why I am asking this question now is because others are also raising it, not least the President of the USA, who claims large elements of the media are not only fake but very fake. I prefix my comments stating I do not intend a detailed examination of his claims and counter claims, which goes back to my earlier point about getting to the bottom of whether something is true or not and therefore holding fire offering a view only after having thoroughly considered all the facts (at least aspiring to do so – the reality may be different). Because of his distrust of the media to report accurately or what matters, Trump has resorted to tweeting to get his message across. While some may view this with consternation, it cannot be denied this has often proved to be an effective method given traditional methods have not worked.

It cannot be denied that not everything the President says is true, but then that goes with politicians in general, many of who are much more measured in what they say so that it is harder to be caught out. One of Trump’s latest tweets about his organization being wired tapped on the authority of his predecessor has given rise to a storm and right now it is raging. While my own advice would be to hang fire making claims that cannot be substantiated, my gut feeling is there is more than a grain of truth is what the President alleges and my hope it will all come out. Before dismissing this view, I suggest check out this link, where evidence is presented. It also addresses something even more worrying, the censoring of news on Google, Facebook and Twitter deemed to be Fake, a claim those who bring that news deny and point out to real Fake news that is passed simply it fits the agenda of the liberal elite that control content.

While I do not have all the answers to the quandary we face when we feel unable to trust the media, I do have a number of suggestions of things we can do which may be helpful in our quest for truth:

  1. Recognise we (and I assume most who read this live in countries where a free press is claimed) are a lot better off than those who live in countries where media output is under the control of the government, so be thankful.
  2. Be mindful of attempts (some successful) to curtail free speech, even close to us, that happens to be true and not meant to incite hate or deception, and resist it when you can.
  3. If you are going to comment on the news be sure to study it first.
  4. Read widely, both sources that support your views and those that don’t in order to achieve some sort of balance.
  5. Fake news exists both in mainstream and alternative media. It is useful to study both and try to discern between what is fake and what is true. When reading and watching, be mindful there is lot out there not strictly true, so exercise a healthy skepticism.
  6. Be careful to apply the TNK (true, necessary, kind) principle before venturing forth with an opinion.
  7. The best news reporters go that extra mile to seek out truth and sometimes pay a high price when what they discover is inconvenient – these are the people we should cherish.
  8. Realise how little we do know for sure, for if we did know what goes on in high places we would think a whole lot differently as to what is happening and why.
  9. I have often pondered that the world is made up of fools, villains and good guys. We cannot always tell which is which, but be sure to align with the good guys if you can, for among other things it is they who are more likely to tell you the truth.
  10. While (acquiring) knowledge (of news) is power, it can also prove to be a heavy burden and can distract us from living ordinary, good lives that focus on helping others.
  11. I would like to say the truth will always come out eventually, even if it is after we are dead. Sometimes even that is not the case but then I take solace in a God who judges according to the truth and know assuredly all truth will one day come out.
  12. Remember the words of Jesus: “the truth will set you free”.
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