News, lies and fake news

It’s a pretty wild time to be a journalist, heck, seems like wild times for all of us in this country these days. What I am learning – and seeing – in ways I didn’t before is the change in media literacy in our society.

I have people, in casual conversation, tell me about something outrageous they saw on TV or Facebook. “How can the media do that?” Or, “Reporters are terrible because…”

I go and find out what they are talking about and it is either A) straight up opinion or commentary (aka not journalism that is reported, fact-checked, etc.) or B) the garden variety fake news click-bait shit.

When I try to explain those nuances, to people I consider decently well-informed and capable of critical thinking…I get crickets.

Media is media is media. TMZ = New York Times = Joe the blogger = fake Twitter account = responsible journalist = responsible blogger.

Which is like saying fast food = home cooked meals from Mom = going to a 5-star restaurant.

Some of these things are truly not like the other.

But for some reason, the swamp is all the swamp. Media this and that.

As always, there are great journalists, mediocre ones, terrible ones who mean well, and straight up bustas. Like any profession.

Unfortunately, the stakes are always higher for us, because poor journalism can hurt people, start rumors, damage lives and institutions. And it can take down corruption, save lives, enlighten and be a force for good when done well by strong practitioners.

But the swamp has all of these journalistic creatures living in it these days, and I am getting tired of the poisonous snakes ruining it for all of us. I tell my students at Michigan State, who also see this and are getting concerned, that the only way we win the war of credibility is by witnessing and being the truth. No short-cuts, no trolling, no clickbait.

Hopefully they carry that with them into the real world, and the rest of the community will take a finer-tune on what they consume and judge it harder.