The modern age of digital media has changed the face of journalism. We are no longer passive observers, but active creators and critics. Through social media we are all citizen journalists, whether we know it or not. Every time we share stories we are spreading news that influences our inner circles. And like a lone sheep following the flock, many of us tend to attune our attitudes with those who gain the most likes or can articulate their opinions with credibility.
The phrase "fake news" echoes throughout the Internet, especially with Donald Trump demonising press outlets that don't subscribe to his agenda, and praising those that do - facts and credibility have little to do with it. It now seems like it's common practice for large-scale public figures to gain the trust and approval of the masses and condemn those who don't follow suit. And many journalists are running scared, afraid of public uproar.
But the objective of a journalist shouldn't be popularity, it should be to present factual news in a neutral and unbiased form, and maintain the trust and confidence of the public. It seems like in recent years the word "journalism" has taken on a new, ambiguous meaning. It can no longer be accurately defined in the Oxford blurb as the definition itself often contradicts the practice. Nowadays it seems to be about picking the "correct" political alignment and gaining followers, rather than revealing and spreading truth.
Truth is Now an Objective Opinion
It seems odd on the surface that a substantial proportion of everyday citizens choose to ignore facts. We see the tabloids indoctrinate readers to support whatever cause they support that week, and then taking a u-turn when the political landscape turns sour - as if THEY were sold a lie - on a weekly basis. We all know it, and yet, many don't seem to acknowledge it.
Brexit - both the leave campaign and remain campaign - was a true demonstration of how the press can skewer facts to align with their own economic agenda. But this is nothing new. While it's more widely recognized, it has always been the same. Throughout the whole Brexit campaign and U.S. Presidential Election there was practically an open acknowledgment of the use of fake news: Boris Johnson's farcical little smiles during the Brexit debate a few days before the referendum; Donald Trump's speculative - and extremely imaginative - accusations about the primary system being rigged, then later saying ""You've been hearing me say it's a rigged system. But now I don't say it anymore because I won. Okay? It's true. You know, now I don't care." It's dangerous how socially acceptable lying has become.
With the web of deceit getting larger and more uncontrollable than ever before, and a general election on the horizon, there has never been a more important time for citizen journalists to enter the foray to impartially and independently collect, report and distribute content. If not for themselves, but to combat the "real fake news" that most of us seem to acknowledge and accept.
Technology has Created a Power Shift
The advent of smart phones has given power to the people. The presence, speed and accessibility allows the everyday citizen to report and break news to a global audience faster than traditional journalists, and much faster than news reporters. This has resulted in a society that's more politically active than ever before (and that's a good thing.)
While some will argue that untrained citizens are more at liberty to obscure information and spread opinion rather than truth; others will retaliate, stating that politically aligned press already tilt the scales to support their own agenda anyway. Regardless, both opinions prove that there is a total lack-of-faith in modern journalism. Whichever think-tank you subscribe to, there's no denying that citizen journalism is where the news is heading. Surely it makes more sense to go with the grain than against the grain?
The Western world is currently in the midst of a huge political shakeup, with politicians no longer playing up to establishment rules. But the facts are there for those of us who wish to seek them. So if you feel compelled to do your bit and help your own inner circles to stay informed (perhaps beyond), build a website, start a blog and, most importantly... do your research!
To read more, visit my personal website: Adam Manuel