A Truth-Fueled Media
Everyone has his or her own ideal utopia, a place where everything is perfect. These theoretical locations range from anarchist islands to benevolent dictatorships and include everything in between them. Unfortunately, they are almost always impossible to achieve. However, they remain important as they drive our political decision-making. The whole idea of the United States is that a group of people come together and use their ideas of utopia to “create a more perfect union.” The knowledge from our country’s founding was that perfection was impossible due to the flawed state of humanity, but that the pursuit of perfection would most likely lead to the best possible outcomes. While often falling short, most of our political ideas have been well-intentioned with this utopian “more perfect union” in mind. I want to contribute one more.
Freedom of the Press
The First Amendment guarantees, among other important liberties, a free press. This was important to the Founders for a few reasons. They did not want the press to develop into a government propaganda tool. They wanted the press to be able to criticize the government and political leaders and representatives without fear of repercussions. And they understood that the press is an important source of information for people. An informed citizenry is of vital importance to a government of, by, and for the people.
Control of Media
So the United States has a free press, or free media in modern parlance. Of course, this really only means the media is free from government control. True freedom is difficult in an era where the media relies so heavily on corporate advertising revenues and individual members of the media class have to “play the game” to further their careers and protect the source of their livelihood. In addition to these influences, media members also have to contend with their sincerely-held moral and political beliefs which often creep into their professional lives and infect the integrity of their journalism. So while our media may not be controlled by the government, there are other very strong forces which control it.
But What If…?
We have a theoretically free media which is enslaved by ambition, corporate advertisers, and personal interests. But what if we had a class of media dedicated wholly to the pursuit of truth? What if we had a cadre of journalists and reporters who were true public servants and embodied the same selfless commitment to service that educators, first responders, law enforcement, and the military do? What if they were more interested in getting honest information to the people than in politics, popularity, or promotion. What if they dedicated themselves fully to serving humanity by uncovering the truth and revealing it to people? What if we could trust a segment of the media to tell us the whole truth, without regard to whose agenda it furthered? What if peaceful assemblies were reported as peaceful and violent mobs were reported as violent? What if crowd numbers were reported accurately? What if audio and video clips weren’t selectively edited and taken out of context? What if we heard both the good and bad news about everything? What if we had accurate, timely, unbiased information about what was really going on in our communities, our nation, and the world? What if the average American had access to truth?
A Shared Understanding
Think about it. How much different would life in the United States be if there was a dedicated corps of media professionals across the nation who accurately reported what was happening? It would certainly change a lot about this country. We would have, if not total agreement, at least a shared understanding of the facts. We would know the good, the bad, and the ugly about our leaders and representatives, current events, public opinion, and a host of other things. People might still draw different conclusions, but we would at least be able to have a conversation again.
Our country, now more than ever, needs a truly free press. The good news is that these people already exist. I believe there are many, probably thousands, of media professionals who enter the industry with the purest and noblest of intentions. They want to uphold the standards of journalistic integrity, uncover the truth, and deliver it to the masses. Unfortunately, they find themselves buried within a system that increasingly opposes their ideals. Their employers and producers determine the stories they will report, which stories get published, and what content gets edited out. This is the real problem, but how do we solve it?
Restoration of Truth in Media
How do we restore truth in the media? How do we empower the truthful media class, those journalists who serve the public interest instead of their own? Ultimately, we need outlets where truthful content is regularly published. This servant media class needs a way to push truth to the people without all the power brokers silencing its voice. There are a few promising options.
Talk radio is a real time, unedited, unfiltered outlet which allows public opinion to get to the masses. However, due to the advent of call screeners, content is still somewhat limited. And talk radio has become increasingly associated with conservatism, which means that it carries political ideology with it. Social media also seemed promising, but only for a season. The rise of bots, censorship, ideologically-driven fact checkers, and selective story promotion have wiped out most hope of those platforms remaining a viable option for the broadcasting of truth. There are other outlets, such as WikiLeaks, which are uncontrolled. But their content production is limited.
In short, I don’t have the answer to this question, but I think finding it is of global importance. Establishing a group of media professionals dedicated to serving humanity by pursuing, uncovering, and publishing truth through platforms which will neither suppress nor modify their content is a huge step toward an informed citizenry which in turn leads to a better government of the people, by the people, and for the people. It is this truth-fueled media and better government which shall lead us onward to the Founders’ utopian vision of creating “a more perfect Union.”