As I approach the New Year, I tend to think back on what I’ve done over the past year and what I can look forward to in the coming year. For me, this was the year of Social Media. It was the year of putting into practice everything I have read but most of all, it was an opportunity to prove something I believe in very strongly; that you CAN build on-line relationships with people you may never meet. I have long been a player of a game called MafiaWars on Facebook, and although you never personally meet many of the people who play in your family, you do get to know total strangers and learn about them and their lives. There is even a caring that develops among you the longer you play the game with some of these people. Of course, my first foray into ‘social networking’ was to run a Mafia Wars MeetNGreet! Yes, as silly as it sounds, some of the things I learned through my personal experiences have carried well into the professional sphere of my life.
I recently finished reading ‘Deadly Spin’ by Wendell Potter. I expected the book to be great, but I never expected to be moved as profoundly as I was. I can honestly say I am amazed at the blinders I had on and feel they were lifted. I was moved enough to write this blog. So today I am writing about how this ‘digital age’ of information is transforming the news and what I see for the future. We are all ‘news casters’ of sorts, as we blog, tweet and post messages about what is going on in the world. The age of instant information is definitely changing not only the way news is delivered, but even what is considered ‘news’. We used to have sources for news that we trusted; non-opinionated, straight forward facts, that you could digest and trust. With so many sources available how do we know what we can trust? How do we differentiate news from PR and even then, from spin. Ah…there I said it…spin. And I believe spin is taking over the news…my question is what role do we play in it, how do we stop it, and if we can’t stop it, then how do we recognize it so we do not spread it.
Many of us get our news today from on-line sources. Newspapers are a dying breed. News stations have cut back on investigative journalists. They were the people who found a story and dug their teeth into it until they had the full story. Now, for many smaller news outlets, a story is ‘picked up’ on a wire and re-printed, no questions asked. Remember Watergate? That story would have never come out if it weren’t for investigative journalism.
Our world is caught up in fear-mongering, class-wars and an ever-widening chasm between the haves and have-nots. People are told change will ruin the American Way of Life. I ask you…what is the American Way of Life? To hate or fear our neighbors because they are different from us? To turn our backs on those in need? To allow greed to run a great country into the ground? What happened to the dream? We forget we are ALL children of immigrants! And through the years, there was always one race or ethnicity that was used to create fear. Spin…its always been there, it’s just so blatant now it is very scary. And it is being used more than ever because of the change in the way we get ‘news’.
This is where we come in. We have become repeaters of ‘news’ (or retweeters of news). We get our news from on-line sources, and our children either listen to it on television or read it on-line. They care even less about sources being reputable as this is the media they are growing up with and don’t remember when investigative journalism was the rule of the land. They do not realize that most ‘news’ is in fact opinion. Any often, these ‘news’ outlets are used for spin. We spread this news instantaneously…via Twitter, Facebook, Digg or any other media so readily available to us. But do WE ever stop to check sources? Do we have sources we know we can trust that we get our news from? Do we teach our children the difference between real news and opinion (or spin)? Do we teach them to get the whole story before forming their own opinion on an issue? When we hear words like ‘socialism’, or ‘the american way of life’, or words in the news that cause fear mongering or anger towards others, you can believe this is spin…it is designed to make you form an opinion others want you to have. We need to recognize those words for what they are and red flags need to go up until we have the true story. We need to demand and expect the truth, from our leaders, be it religious, government and even business, we need to hear the truth. Good bad or ugly, we need to hear it. Only then can we form an opinion.
So in this age of digital news, search for reputable sources. Watch what you spread through social media. Do your own research and teach your children to love others, to not be afraid of finding the truth, to have a kind heart and to not be afraid of change; but change that is for the good of society as a whole, not just one class (social or economic). Teach your children to question things, even authority. The truth doesn’t hurt people or society, lies do.
Tweet Gently and Carry a Big Stick.