The Beatles’ music is as relevant as ever. So is the first line of the band’s “A Day in the Life,” which brings to mind more than the song’s dark themes. It speaks to the current state of journalism.
It’s awful. And it’s likely to get worse.
My sons are 6 and 4, far too young to consume the news in any appreciable way. The most they hear is a radio news snippet or part of a conversation Mommylibrium and I are having about current events.
That won’t last for long.
Soon, they’ll be reading the web and, gasp, devouring social media memes on Facebook and Twitter. And what will they find? Sensationalism across the board. Media bias that gets worse every day. And less than accurate information framed in dubious ways.
Here’s just one example, and it’s so minor it seems not worth discussing. And yet it speaks volumes about where the media is today. Here’s the UK Telegraph’s headline for its Q&A with “Spy” director Paul Feig:
Paul Feig: ‘Women Are Funnier than Men’
Wow. Pretty strong stuff, especially considering the heat Adam Carolla received for suggesting just the opposite. Except when you read the article that quote is nowhere to be found. Instead, Feig said this:
I find the female sense of humour much funnier than male humour, because it’s less aggressive and I find it supportive and fun.
Now, that’s entirely different. Yet not only did this respectable newspaper incorrectly quote Feig, it put the false quote as the headline. Think that’s an aberration? It’s the tip of the inaccurate iceberg.
Major news outlets push false narratives, selectively edit material to cause a new/different meaning and otherwise ignore pertinent information while dishing on the latest Kim Kardashian selfie to gain more clicks.
What’s a parent to do?
Follow the rules applied to children’s TV consumption. Observe, oversee and discuss. It’s the best weapon in a father’s arsenal against modern news media.
Check out the news stories your children are reading. Discuss the outlets in question. Is it CBS News or FredsCoolBlog.com? Does the outlet have an established bias? Does the headline match the story? Are there facts being ignored or downplayed? Do other legitimate stories back up the claims in the piece?
And, for heaven’s sake, teach them to view nearly everything shared on Facebook with a healthy sense of skepticism.
The irony, of course, is that my sons’ pappy works in the media. I’ve served as a features and entertainment reporter for two newspapers. I’m about to embark on a new journey overseeing a pop culture web site. I’m also a conservative, and routinely pen pieces for right-of-center outlets. I try hard not to use my ideology to distort reality. If I get something wrong I correct it.
Too many of my peers don’t even bother. And that makes a parent’s job even harder than it already is.