By Sylvia Stead for The Globe and Mail
Last Monday, the President of the United States used a speech to 40,000 children, teens and their adult supervisors (the Boy Scouts) to offer a lesson on the media today. His message to the students: The media is dishonest and fake. Ditto the news.
Really. That is both wrong and sad.
What readers, viewers and consumers of media need is not such hyperbolic lashing of news reporting from someone who fails to understand the job of the media. That job is not to praise or accept everything said by any political leader – that is done by their supporters, and their media promoters. The job of the media is to hold power to account on behalf of their readers: to question critically and press for answers and honesty.
Those Boy Scouts and all media consumers could use a better discussion of media literacy; at the same time, the media could do a better job of explaining what and how they themselves work.
Anyone can publish their views these days, sometimes based on facts and sometimes with zero reference to reality: Think wild conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who has said on his site Infowars that the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was a hoax. (He later said he was playing devil’s advocate and that he tended to believe children “probably died there.”)
That’s an extreme example, but remember that some of these marginal platforms are built on one person’s opinions, with no news reporting and no editing or checks and balances.