Internet has made us less informed, tolerant
Back around the middle of the last century, a newspaper in Alberta had a running feud with the local MLA.
At one point the paper uncovered some scandal and since this was before instant communications, the newspaper published an “extra” edition.
It seemed important to get this new information out to the people, since the election was the next day.
The MLA was returned to office with his biggest majority ever.
So, there’s nothing new about politicians feuding with newspapers and the media. In fact, it’s one of the oldest games in the political playbook. If you need an enemy, pick the media because nobody likes them much anyway.
Largely because of what’s happening in the United States, “fake news” has become a rallying cry for anyone who doesn’t like what they read or see.
The media is not immune to errors, including errors of excess. But almost every working journalist has a personal mandate to get the real story out there. Invariably they believe in truth.
With some exceptions, there have been few corporate attempts to shade, shape or lie about the news.
In my career, I’ve only twice had a head office official tell me what to write or omit.
In the first of these instances, the owner of a group of newspapers got himself into some serious trouble with the law and threatened that any of his editors who published the story would be fired.
Had this happened to anyone else in the circulation area, it would have been front page news.
For me, the order not to publish was a red flag waved in front of a bull, so I published it and sure enough, he fired me, which turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened in my career.
Another time I was working at one of several papers owned by Conrad Black’s company.
After Black had been smeared by a piece on the CBC about a strike at one of his newspapers, we were all instructed to publish his response.
The original piece was one-sided and unfair and the reply only sought to get the other side out, so I had no problem complying.
Never, as an editor or writer, was I instructed to slant or lead the newspaper in a chosen direction on any subject at any time.
So, it’s a fallacy that there is lots of fake news out there from legacy media driving some hidden political agenda.
(Of course, there’s lots of fake news from other media that present only slanted views and do one-sided things such as hold rallies in support of their point of view.)
But people have become so intolerant and so mired in their own beliefs that for many, there is little chance for debate or the possibility of changing anyone’s mind.
Back in the day, it was argued that the Internet would bring knowledge to the masses and make our world a saner and more reasoned place.
Just the opposite has happened, at least with social media. Algorithms make sure you get to see items that support your prejudices and belief system.
Anything that might actually challenge you to think or give some weight to another point of view just doesn’t show up on your feed.
It’s a new kind of media versus people war.
People have become so intolerant and so mired in their own beliefs that for many, there is little chance for debate.”