The truth about ‘news’

I am a beginner in Media Studies, I am no scholar, not an academic or even a journalist with a career spanning decades of brilliant coverage for big news production companies. I am just a journalist who has written a bit here and there, is studying media and hopes to one day contribute a little more than I am contributing to news currently.

Recently, I got into an online conversation with someone who insisted that I must pursue the truth, without defining what ‘truth’ means. Someone on the outside who thinks they know the inside, who thinks they know the details, and thinks that anybody who doesn’t agree with them is biased. In fact, this person even went so far as to call me ‘influenced’ and ‘biased’ knowing nothing about me, having not read a single piece of what I have written without spending time and attention to my work.

I love it when strangers try to correct my worldview as if theirs is any more accurate than mine. Now this conversation got me thinking, what is the ‘truth’? We use the word like it’s obvious. Like we all know what the ‘truth’ is. I tried to explain to this person that ‘truth’ is subjective, maybe that was a mistake, maybe I should have just said, “Yes I will work on reporting the truth and nothing but the truth.” But instead I tried to be honest, which is ironic.

It’s tough to explain to people who don’t sit debating media every day and can switch over to other things what goes into producing one headline. How many considerations are made, how many barriers it must past, how long it takes to produce a snippet of news that people will read and find credible. I agree lately credibility is hard to find, validity is hard to establish, and conspiracy is implied. Also, we’re starting to undo this presumption that there is something called “real” journalism.

You don’t need to work with media corporations to know how tough it is to produce content. It’s the small news organisations that struggle the most. Today with shorter attention spans and the new and catchy term ‘Fake news’ vetted by Trump, there’s a certain disbelief, that media is just out to get you, that all these people who love to talk just stand behind a camera yelling at you that things are bad. I can understand that it gets annoying.

I love how I who is just a journalist at the smallest level, who has barely even begun had to be a mouthpiece for “my kind” which is very problematic. I know it’s easy to criticise those who stay on the middle ground, who refuse to pick a side. I often find that people believe in binaries, especially in the intellectual or rather the psuedointellectual world. They are bothered by those who don’t choose, who believe there is a shade of grey in between and I stand there.

I’ve been asked why I leave things open-ended. Does the world stop when we stop living? It goes on, it’s only us who stop. So why must what I write have a definite ending? I get it in the case of academic work, or research but not in journalism. When this person brought ‘morality’ into the debate I was out, morality is personal, and can’t be imposed. Also I have no reason to justify how I work when my work speaks for itself. If you have a problem with my work I can engage, when you have a problem with me, I can’t help you.

I knew after a point nothing I said would make it better, of course things got out of hand, and after being patient, I finally found the accusation of being “biased” a bit much for a complete stranger who hasn’t read a single one of my articles and was trying to teach me what ‘news’ should be. I don’t confront people, I usually let them think what they want. But, sometimes it’s unavoidable. I realised how skewed the conversation was. People come into a debate with assumptions and presumptions, it’s unfair from the beginning.

They want you to confirm what they think about you, and if you don’t they will push you till you give in. The conversation between the media and the people has largely been uni-dimensional. But all those who have so much to say about the media don’t go to the system with their issues, they find the smaller voices and go to them for answers. It’s simply because the smaller voices are accessible, they are open to debate, they have barely found their footing. The people who are larger cogs remain undectable and purposely unreachable.

Therefore, this person when they realised I wasn’t going to simply accept and move on, stuck to the narrative that I misunderstood, that the message was directed to the larger system and not me per say. In the process this person managed to confirm my suspicions, that I was the funnel for their frustration against the larger system, which I happened to be a part of. It’s a great cover-up for an accusation but it’s a shabby one.

I simply said that they must expand what they mean by ‘truth’, what truth with regard to what, and whose truth? I was “biased” according to this stranger because I didn’t agree with their version of the ‘truth’. If I was biased I’d have reacted differently. I wasn’t defending news, I will never do that, because the whole point of news would then be defeated. But I will defend myself.

When I write here I write what I feel but when I write for work I keep my feelings at home, because I know that ‘truth’ is messy. It’s not my job to give you the ‘truth’, my job is to give you the puzzle, and I will give you the pieces. Sometimes I will even put them together, for you. But what picture you see on the face of that puzzle, that’s for you to decide. Whether you’re looking at it from the right or the left, or top or bottom, or perhaps closing your eyes and hearing other’s descriptions. What you see, choose to see and finally believe is on you, that’s your responsibility, stranger.

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2 thoughts on “The truth about ‘news’

  1. Poonacha PG says:

    Hats off to the first person who coined the word “Truth” to mean something that we can only keep searching for due to non-availability of complete information.I like your thought,
    “It’s not my job to give you the ‘truth’, my job is to give you the puzzle, and I will give you the pieces. Sometimes I will even put them together, for you. But what picture you see on the face of that puzzle, that’s for you to decide.”

    Like

  2. Cathy Cade says:

    Nothing is closed to change – and that includes research. What is lauded as good for us in one decade is debunked in the next. People feel the need to make up their minds about issues – be it religion, politics or how to grill a burger. Once they’ve decided their point of view they stop listening, because that might unsettle them. Rather than teaching children ‘this is how it is’, education should be about keeping minds open and listening to others’ points of view. (sometimes we only need to hear ourselves uninterrupted to realise there is a flaw in our reasoning.)

    Liked by 1 person

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