The information illusion of news and what we could do
I often use these platforms as note books. The mere act transforming thoughts to paper gives me a bit more clarity. “Write it down”, I tell my students as they attempt to imbibe a lecture by only the art of listening.
This morning, I pondered the book deal in front of me, which I thought wasn’t quite what I wanted and yet how ruminating over the decision has led me to take a hacksaw to the finished work and seek out a new path. As with any work where you’re trying to find patterns to ascribe to a paradigm shift, it’s like looking at a chess board predicting several plays ahead. And then, the task of how you relay that in text in a descriptive narrative, rather than academic one, and yes they can be both.
My premise has been this. The style of news we’ve come to accept like the air we breath today was necessary for its time attempting a scientific approach towards objectivity.
People had proved they could not be trusted ( they still can’t) , so various crafted parameters were embraced. The views of the journalists, culture, a nuanced view from generalists were to be removed. In the face of propaganda and bias (yellow journalism) and a Newsreel form which at times faked its news, this appeared necessary.
Visual journalism whether at the BBC, ABC et al was founded on this. And we the public obligingly accepted what we saw. But there was a problem. One that we did not want to discuss and has bedevilled journalism since.
Everything we see and hear and report inherently uses emotions and motives. Unlike the chemical reactions in a test tube which underpins scientific enquiry sought by the social sciences and journalism, our petri dish is perception, not absolute data ( though that exists) and any objective positioning is difficult if nay impossible. The social sciences attempted to get by this by introducing into their work flow an aspect of self critical awareness- doubt at what was being produced.
It’s a sort of Eminen self diss as seen in “8 Miles”. Get to yourself first before others do and because you recognise your own framing you neuter others criticism. Journalism was having none of this. Hence we’ve affected this quasi Harry Houdini in information illusion, whilst falsely declaring a sanctity of impartial, objective, balanced, fair journalism.
What does it mean to be truthful? By teaching people to understand the power and symbolism of world and images and their arrangements, can we mobilise greater consciousness? By absolutely recognising what the author brings can we eke out meaning in line with the style, upbringing, thought processes of the journalist to help the viewers. The latter elides with cinema. Cinema’s limitless palette of conveying meaning is what’s at our disposal, whilst in turn we rely on a blunt rusty set of tools to open up meaning.
I once recall pleased through my findings a bunch of journalists who used cinema, life’s richer canvas of meaning, to tell their stories. They were looking for the truth and would rework their stories to reflect other’s stark findings.
On the one hand we’re not far off, I believe, from an AI project in which the speaker/ journalist etc’s sentiment analysis is a combinant for readers to help make meaning of events through human filters.
Imagine too that point when Trump turns on the media and they roll their cameras around, or switch them off. We’re no less predictable as people, but we enforce this style of news that plays to predictable narratives more often. It’s time we understood meaning making in journalism, and civility, and how that plays out in our day to day discourse in the world.