“I Read The News Today. Oh Boy…” *
I have always had and probably will have a gigantic appetite for the media.
In ancient times when I worked in advertising each morning, I would wake and devour several daily newspapers before heading off to my agency to immerse myself in, well, media!
Years of practice meant I was able to read/ skim several broadsheets and tabloids at lightning speed, scanning headlines, running my eye over the pages stopping only when a particular headline or byline caught my attention. My addiction was not just restricted to print as my car’s radio was tuned only to news channels giving me an audio feed of everything, I had just read in the newspapers!
Murdoch and Co. fed my habit, and I, the devoted junkie, willingly consumed everything their multiple outlets spewed out twenty- four hours a day, seven days a week. It was akin to having an insatiable crack cocaine habit.
However, even though I began to suffer from a chronic dependence, I came to believe that I was a discerning consumer. I stuck mainly to the print medium given that my tastes never ran to the television bulletins delivered by perfectly groomed anchors spewing out meaningless and often questionable sound bites. The upside was, I discovered that a journalist’s copy was sometimes the perfect fodder for a snappy advertising headline. At the same time, the banal puffery of the storyline provided the ideal platform for a full-blown advertising campaign.
By 2012 the internet had established itself into our day to day lives, meaning the media I thought I knew and understood began to change, not gradually but at warp speed. It left me bewildered and somewhat confused, desperately trying to juggle multiple streams of content like a shower of shrapnel bombarding me from every possible vantage point. Where to place my client’s media budget? Hundreds of TV channels accompanied by the arrival of multiple social media platforms. I had no idea.
It was time to exit stage left.
The media landscape, made up of broadsheets, tabloids, radio TV and outdoor suddenly embarked on a mammoth breeding spree. An analogy would be to watch mushrooms sprout from a fresh cow pat throughout one night.
The internet meant that media outlets would publish their news online for those of us too lazy to walk to the corner store to buy a newspaper. The walls of Babylon began to crumble when the likes of Facebook, Instagram, My Space (remember that gem?) Twitter, Google, Yahoo, Reddit, YouTube and a plethora of also-rans joined the fray. They supplied us with up to date news bulletins by the minute and a plethora of mindless drivel posted by people with too much time on their hands.
These platforms allowed anyone with a smartphone and a questionable ability to string sentences together to become a ‘journalist’ allowing them to post their opinions without the filter of a good editor or fact-checker to monitor the content.
The larger social media sites have become juggernauts offering a soapbox to anyone who wanted to have his or her say never mind whether it was true or not for the sole aim seemed to be to gather as many ‘likes’ as possible and to hope and pray that one’s post went ’viral.’
Now, don’t get me wrong for I am as guilty as the next blogger in posting articles online and from time having broken the age-old law of not thoroughly checking my facts and posting pieces with numerous typos accompanied by paragraphs filled with atrocious grammar.
My humble apologies to those who read my posts, I shall try to do better.
In the age of Trump, the phrase ‘fake news’ has become a byword for anything that criticizes and offends the president’s fragile ego. Sadly, even he has an axe to grind given the blatant untruths or hyperboles that have been churned out by some of even the most reputable publications.
Given that we all consume mountains of content flooding our phones and, by and large, absorbing everything that a ‘reputable journalist’ is telling us, whether it is true or not. Truth in the deluge of news and opinion pieces has become like searching for a needle in a haystack. The more powerful online platforms have built ivory towers from which their users spew hatred and malcontent that is not only believed but shared multiple times so that the reach becomes enormous.
The platitudes uttered by the owners of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook ring hollow when they tell the government committees that they are monitoring content on their sites and removing inflammatory speech.
I have yet to see it!
Not too long ago, an hour spent each morning browsing the news media while sipping a good cup of coffee was one of life’s great pleasures. Not anymore as, skimming as I do through a plethora of news feeds at the start of the day I can feel my blood pressure rising and sink rapidly into a state of depression when confronted by salacious and irresponsible content deliberately meant to inflame my wrath.
Dear Rupert, the devil incarnate, who feeds the masses with juicy gossip and questionable stories in his trashy tabloids has inspired millions of aspiring ‘amateur journalists’ to follow the lead of News Corporation by mirroring the same content that they generate each day. We have reached the point where it is difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff that is dished up by the trough load directly to our devices.
What is right, and what is not?
And yet, I find it hard to wean myself off this diet of misinformation as I blithely fire up my phone each morning to see what catastrophes have befallen the world during the time I went to bed and the time I wake up.
Addiction is a formidable beast to banish.
Bali. September 2020
The title is from the lyrics of “Day in The Life” by Lennon & McCarthy.
Paul v Walters is the best selling author of several best selling novels and anthologies of short stories. When not cocooned in sloth and procrastination in his house in Bali he often rises to scribble for several international travel and vox pop journals.