Now I do not profess to know very much about the subject technically, I do not have a degree, I do not work in the industry and I only know a few journalists personally. But I have seen a marked shift in journalistic writing and reporting over the past (almost) 50 years, and I am left confused and sceptical about any news I read or see on the TV now. There is a distinction between what I call a journalist and what I call a hack. I think there always has been but, unfortunately, I think the good old-fashioned professional journalist is a dying breed in today’s society.
I believe the English language has shifted over the years. I am not just talking about the language that Shakespeare used no longer being spoken, I am talking about general everyday English that normal everyday people use. Many people would say that the Americans took good English and butchered it, but I think it has more to do with the instant society in which we live and the need for most people (including journalists) to attempt to gain and hold the general publics attention for more than 2 seconds.
Another issue I have with writers of news is the lack of attention to detail. Many mistakes in grammar and spelling are often seen in online news stories and even the printed paper. How does this happen? Surely the article is reviewed, not only by the journalist who wrote it but maybe by the editor too. I even found a glaring error in an article by the ABC which was published online, stating “police have charged a Townsville women” not “woman”! I would expect more from them, you know, “better quality of journalism” or even “better quality of English”, etc.
Let me just write a disclaimer her before all you journalists get up me for any mistakes in my grammar or spelling …… note: I am not a journalist, I have not been to journalism school or spent my career writing articles, I am just a simple person expressing their opinion (how ever terribly written). I am not a professional writer and I do not do this for a living so I would not expect my blog to be perfect. You on the other hand (and I am talking to the journalists and professional writers reading this) probably do write as a professional and may have been to Uni to get your degree, so I would have higher expectations of you.
I was watching our local news the other night and there was a report on a smash and grab at a local store. The news reader was reading the report and it went something like this…… “the alleged offender smashed his way into the shop and demanded money from the cashier”. Then the CCTV video was shown of the incident and I saw the “alleged offender” opening the door to the shop, walking in and demanding money from the cashier, no smashing at all.
So why the emotive language? Well to report “the alleged offender opened the door and walked into the shop and demanded money from the cashier” just does not have the same effect. But is it really necessary? By using the word “smashed”, the outrage at such an incident is amplified in your mind. Now I am not saying that you should not be cross/angry/outraged at the offender stealing, of course you should, it is not right and they should not be doing it, but do you feel more outraged because of the emotive language used to report the crime?
In all honesty I was left feeling a little perplexed and ripped off by the news report (I was expecting to see someone smashing their way into the shop), which then detracted from the fact that the crime was serious and the shopkeeper robbed is probably having to deal with a lot of emotional turmoil and stress, not to mention the loss of money that they had worked hard to earn.
So is it right that journalists (and others) should deceive us and play with our emotions in this way? If I am reading a novel or story, I want the author to play with my emotions, dangle me on a hook, keep me in suspense and generally help me enjoy the book. But that is a story, it is fiction, I read for enjoyment and a good author can do all those things and write an amazing piece of work that I thoroughly enjoy reading, knowing all the while that it is fiction. When I am reading or listening to the news I want facts. I want to know exactly what happened. I do not want it to be an overblown work of semi-fiction, exaggerated and emotive to catch my attention. I want to know exactly what happened in a factual way so I can assess the news story and be informed.
Some days I find myself questioning the factual content and accuracy of news and news stories. Sometimes I read a news article written by our local journalists and feel outraged or angry. I really need to take a step back and divorce myself from the emotion and delve deeper into why I am feeling like this, am I being manipulated into feeling this way by the language used in the article?
On other days I find myself skimming through the news, wondering why they are repeating the same stories they told a week ago, why they are writing about insignificant things that have a headline that makes you think the story is something it is not. All this does is waste the reader’s time and puts them off reading any news at all.
Is it any wonder we are confused, look at the picture below. Same newspaper company, printed on the same day but in different states in the US. Check out the headlines….
Now there is a lot of coverage on social media and certain media outlets about the term Fake News. Without wading into the whole Donald Trump debate I believe we have always had some form of fake news, from war-time propaganda to sensational magazines and trashy newspapers vying for the ultimate headline.
What do I think is different in present times? Maybe the fact that there is so much more media, being readily accessible through online news pages, social media and google. Maybe we as a society are more gullible, or too quick to become outraged by any perceived notion of inequality, injustice, or opinion that we do not agree with.
Why are we so quick to believe something just because we read it in a newspaper or saw in on social media?
A prime exampe is a facebook post I saw. It had a picture of a printed (not very well printed I may add) sign in Victoria about a multicultural beach. The sign said you could not consume alcohol, pork products or wear bikinis. Well it was obviously a bad hoax, probably put up by a section of the community that wants to stir trouble, cause dissension, hate or terror. But… some people believed it. Some people reposted it with taglines of “this is what it is coming to”, “how dare the Victorian council do this”, outrage and hateful comments were posted about it. I read the post and immediatley picked it for what it was and I didn’t understand how people fell for this. Where is common sense?
That then, brings me onto opinions. This blog is, in fact, just an expression of my opinion (with the odd fact thrown in to support the opinion).
Opinions, we all have them. Some are more vocal than others, some are stronger than others, some seem strange (to us), some seem wrong (to us), but everybody is entitled to their opinion. Now, to qualify this, even though I believe everybody is entitled to their own opinions, obviously expression of that opinion should not be done to maliciously hurt other people (such as fat shaming or racism). Adults should be able to express an opinion without making it an attack on someone else’s race, religion, sexual orientation, gender or looks.
News media have a right to express their opinions too, but this should be done in an obvious “this is an opinion piece not a factual/news piece” way. To express an opinion in reporting news stories is not, in my opinion, in the best interests of the public. News should be reported factually without bias (although that is very difficult in present society due to political bias of some news outlets). Opinion pieces should be kept for discussion on important topics, to get the public thinking about the important things. News reporting should keep to the facts.
Social Media and Society
Now this is a whole topic in itself and I will discuss in detail in my next blog but……. People in society today are so quick to judge, be offended, hate and express their opinions with no thought of how it may affect others. If we all slowed down, put some thought into our social media posts and saw it from others perspectives maybe social media could be used to generate love and kindness instead of self promotion, hurt and pain.
But I will leave that discussion for my next blog.