The real news

I like reading dictionaries, and because of a service the Merriam Webster Dictionary offers, words are even more interesting than usual. The advantage of an online dictionary is that you can easily discover what words people want to know more about.

Not surpringly many of the recent trending words are related to Donald Trump: Facism, bigot, xenophobe, misogyny etc. If it hadn’t been such a straightforward word fake news would probably be on the list as well. Facebook has been blamed for the amount of fake news, and the company has promised to do something about it. That’s almost comical when I consider what mainstream media has, or hasn’t done in recent years.

The Norwegian media’s coverage of the Syrian refugee crisis is a good example. Journalism exerted a strong influence on public opinion, and the attitude seems to have been that anything less than open borders and limitless spending is pure evil. The minister of immigration has been compared to the Nazis, even Hitler and Goebbels. The truth is that she has never suggested not helping refugees, but it makes sense to help people in the refugee camps in Turkey and Lebanon. Some of the news stories in mainstream media have been screaming fake loud and clear, and its hard to understand how the journalist could miss the obvious questions.  It seems to me that the object has been to create sympathy, and truth quickly became another casualty.

I’m a big fan of British satire and Not the Nine O’Clock News was a part of my childhood. The difference is that it is also a liberal stance today.

The coverage of the US election did little to improve media’s reputation, especially what happened after the election and Brexit. There’s been a strong reaction from a number of Milennials that refused to accept the results. There were angry, scared and seemingly combative people in the streets, and the newspapers did their best to encourage a situation that could easily have changed for the worse. Norwegian newspapers obsessed about Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote, and they gave the impression that Donald Trump had stolen the election. When Al Gore lost in the 2000 election it was by a margin of 537 votes in Florida. He challenged the result, but had to give up, and I don’t recall anyone defending democracy back then.

There are many questions the press could have asked. Why didn’t more women, African-Americans and Hispanics vote for Hillary Clinton? Voter turnout is very low in the USA and it was under 55 percent in 2012. Is that a democratic problem?

Someone shared a fake news list with me a few days ago. An assistant professor had made it for her students to debate, but it quickly spread in social media. There are major problems with the list because it also includes bloggers and pundits that write ideologically, satirically or other types of opinions. In other words, it’s not meant to be compared to CNN. On the other hand, there is a reason we need alternative media. I agree that some of the sites on the list deserve to be there, but there are also mainstream media outlets that are not as reputable as many think. They present narrative news.

It is important to be a critical reader, though, and I always compare different sources. I was recently reminded of this when a Facebook-friend shared a blog post she had read. The post stated that Sweden had much fewer cases of whooping cough than Norway even though the Swedes had not had a vaccine since 1979. The truth is that a vaccine was withdrawn in 1979 because it wasn’t effective, but it was replaced with a better one. What real news, or textbooks can confirm, is that although vaccines work, they are not as effective as many assume. One of several problems is that there are different definitions for the minimum concentration of antibodies needed to be ptotected.

Talk Radio is an important arena for sharing information. These programs mostly talk about conspiracies, but some of the topics are interesting. Coast to Coast is on the list,  but I don’t think they are suggesting that they are broadcasting more than opinions. Even Seth Shostak of the SETI Institute hosts a weekly radioshow, and although it’s presented as science, there is a certain amount of speculation involved. It’s not news, but should it be listed as mainstream when Facebook, Twitter, You Tube and others start blocking information?

Social media is a part of the infrastructure that has made it possible for whistleblowers and activists to get their information out. I think it would be inaccurate to say that mainstream media is truth, while the alternatives are lies. We all have a responsibility as readers, and an article isn’t automatically true because we read it in New York Times, The Guardian or heard it on CNN. NRK, the state channel in Norway gave me the biggest surprise of this election. They have a children’s channel, NRK Super, and in Super News they aim to explain the world to children. They did what everyone else did, they totally misrepresented the facts when they said that the election was a battle between good and evil. Donald Trump would start a world war , while Hillary Clinton was the saviour. Not surpringly it made many children worried, and this is regarded as the most mainstream we have. It was still fake news.

I don’t see how media could have any credibility left, so this would be a bad time to lose alternatives.

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