While watching the news for the first time in a few weeks (don’t judge me, I’ve been busy), I found myself reflecting on my past as a journalist.
My decision not to continue on that career path was the result of several factors: the current job market, declining emphasis on ethics and civic responsibility… but most of all was that fact that today’s “news,” even if it’s truthfully and objectively reported (which is rare), is depressing as hell more often than not. And I didn’t want to build a life around focusing on the negative.
So where do we turn, those of us who want to be informed about the current state of affairs, but who are sick of swallowing lies or choking on bitterness and suffering? Why, the internet, of course. But wait. What about the people who say that bloggers and independent news sites operate under a banner of self-interest and can’t be trusted to report fact accurately? Are they somehow more trustworthy than the “name brand” news, just because they have less funding and lack corporate control? Or do they simply jerk on strings tied to a different master (the “public”)?
Here’s what I eventually learned, through all my experiences and education in the field. I’m sharing this because I feel like someone needs to.
Bottom line: no one is ever completely right. But no one is ever completely wrong, either. There isn’t a finite amount of “truth” in the world, but you will probably never be able to see the entire “big picture,” either. The trick to being well-informed (without being secretly ignorant or jaded and cynical) is seeking out the answers for YOURSELF. Wanna know what’s happening? Read a book. Google it. Then read a couple of articles from different sides of the issue, even if they disagree with what you think might be the truth. Confirm your facts with three or more sources before you cite them or use them to support your beliefs.
Here’s a little secret. All journalism graduates have been trained to do this, and we used to be able to trust them to do it. But not anymore. Now it’s up to us.
So, at the risk of sounding like Glen Beck (shudder), TRUST NO ONE. Self-educated is the new informed.