The End is Nigh: What Journalism’s Selling

I graduated with a journalism degree back in the mid-90s, when this little “internet” thing was just taking off.

I don’t think any of us then could have fathomed a world where news could travel instantaneously from not just professionals, but amateurs with fancy cellphones.

Today, I wish the ethics class I had taken then was mandatory for all users of social media, and a refresher course available for all working journos. In the heat of the moment, even I can be guilty of kneejerk retweeting, because I naively believe the news sources wouldn’t DARE misinform us about something as dire as, like, nuclear meltdown.

How wrong I am.

Journalism & social media today.

Times like these, I worry it’s the blind-leading-the-blind news scenario that’s most detrimental to us.

Out there, panic. Apparently we’re all going to be stricken with radiation, then cancer and certain death as a nuclear meltdown abso-fucking-lutely will be laying waste across the world. Potassium iodide sales are skyrocketing. IN THE USA AND CANADA. Hello, there’s 7,000 kilometres minimum between our coasts, let alone travelling inland.

Get yer tinfoil hats on and stock up on duct tape, kids — North America’s in JEOPARDY!

Um, no, no meltdown, no nuclear boom. Not yet, kiddos. And, the thing is, the news is so sensationalised by just about everyone right now that I can’t even watch it. I just can’t.

Being terrified isn’t helping. And it’s insulting to the Japanese who are living with this shit within their borders.

And, furthermore, these constant death totals — the media had no business reporting deaths on day 2, 3, 4, etc. We know they’re going to escalate rapidly, and the foolishly low numbers reported early in the tragedy are just irresponsible — as if the tragedy is WORSENING because the numbers are rising.

No. It was that bad to begin with. You just had to watch it unfolding live. I’ll never forget how that felt. “Hundreds” of deaths? So naive.

I remember the low numbers reported for the first few days of the Indonesian tsunami that resulted in 230,000 deaths. I fear the numbers in Japan. I loathe the endless watch as the number creeps up with increasing speed as recovery efforts escalate. From false hope of “oh, it looked worse” to the ever-rising gloom of knowing that’s so much more than “just a number” as it gets amped up by thousands.

And, then, elsewhere in the world, Gaddhafi is effecting a brutal crackdown on his protesters, as the western leaders twiddle their thumbs. Bahrain is killing its protesting citizens, too.

CNN? Barely even knows the Arab World exists this week. And people are dying while our heads are turned away.

That is the media’s job. To prevent us from being blind to these things.

They’re failing.

They’re scaring us.

They’re reporting inside an echo chamber, putting people who don’t understand the topic in charge of educating the masses, they’re ignoring blood being shed for democracy, and none of us are the better for it.

To the few journalists who are really trying to present information without sensationalising it: Thank you.

To the rest of ’em: Get a real job.