As a “boomer” who grew up before the advent of social media and the constant twenty-four-hour news cycle – I yearn for the good old days (and yes, they were good) where news was reported without “spin” – and when errors were made timely corrections were issued. Both news organizations and individual reporters were held accountable for reporting fiction vice the facts.
It seems at times that reporting disinformation or in some cases outright propaganda vice the facts are unfortunately now becoming the norm. In our representative democracy which depends on the media to hold elected officials accountable and serves to enlighten the electorate with facts vice fiction, it is deeply disturbing to see this trend continue unchecked without repercussions.
As a recent example, take the case of Capital Police Officer Sicknick who unfortunately was on duty in the Capital during the January 6th “insurrection.” Initial reports by national news media claim he succumbed to injuries after being struck in the head by a fire extinguisher by a protestor. Any loss of life is tragic and even more so when that loss of a former veteran is sustained while on duty as a police officer. In honor of his untimely death, he lied in state in the Capitol Rotunda which is an honor normally reserved for former Presidents, Supreme Court Justices, and other elected noteworthy officials.
However, as reported recently by CNN , Officer Sicknick did not die of injuries sustained while on duty but rather the Washington, D.C. chief medical examiner stated that Sicknick “suffered two strokes and died of natural causes.” In addition, there was no evidence that he suffered an allergic reaction to chemical irritants deployed during the chaos. All of this is contrary to previous “reporting” by the once reputable New York Times which was definitely not news “fit to print.”
This is but one recent example of misleading or blatantly false reporting not based on facts and evidence but rather spun to fit a certain narrative. At the end of the day, no one is held accountable. People are only human and do make mistakes, but it is patently obvious that unfortunately the much of the news we are constantly fed is put forth not to educate and enlighten but rather to push a predetermined political agenda be it to the right or to the left.
As Thomas Jefferson warned us years ago “An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic.” This exhortation may have been clear and concise in his day, but it is now well worth redefining. In our 21st century age of social media — which predisposes the modern electorate to seek information that confirms their own predispositions — sadly, many people are happy just being “well-informed” within their own circle of biases.
This is a sad commentary on both of us as individual citizens and those professional journalists whose calling it is to seek the truth. We are better than this.