Rapidly changing media landscape requires everyone become journalists

Photo by Benjamin Pecka

Tools available on the Internet are revolutionizing the world by democratizing media. New platforms used to manage an increasing amount of information are becoming more sophisticated, and media literacy rates climb as a result. The future of media production appears bright, but the world of news and information is currently vulnerable.

Digital tools allow greater peer production, and an economy more influenced by self-organizing communities places needed checks on capitalism. Behemoth media conglomerates are desperate to curb declining profits though, and historically respond with less-than-honorable practices, like treating news as an entertainment ratings game rather than a critical public service.

Profit-driven news agencies are problematic because information is increasing at exponential rates and there are not enough people trained to analyze, interpret and responsibly present it to the public. Mismanagement prevents healthy exchange of discourse and dims the brightness of participatory democracy and our constitutional republic.

Misinformation normally plays a part in polarized political campaigns but the number of fake news reports and memes during the 2016 Presidential Campaign were unprecedented. Regardless of where anyone falls on the political spectrum, it is a problem that the general public is so easily manipulated. The average citizen should be immune to con-artistry.

Americans still primarily obtain news from television reports, which aren’t equipped to provide in-depth analysis. Broadcasters must interrupt their coverage to air ads every few minutes and move to the next story. Politics resembles a daytime soap opera without the constant reminders of what happened, and why, in previous episodes.

While we increasingly consume news on social media, it hasn’t proven any better. False information spreads quickly because television news created a culture of passive media consumption. Few take the steps necessary to verify information, sometimes only reading the headline, before sharing it with hundreds or thousands.

Americans can no longer accept information at face value because there are no longer a handful of trusted networks working under a set of agreed standards providing it. Responsible citizens must remain skeptical, drop political allegiances and stop contributing to polarization by analyzing all claims critically and then working to cultivate solution-focused discourse.

Digital tools give ordinary citizens the power to contribute meaningfully to the news-gathering process and everyone bears greater responsibility in managing the impending onslaught of democratized information.

CCN recommends that MCTC students pay close attention to the required information studies course, take Introduction to Mass Communications and vow to stay on top of ever-changing media technology. A lifetime of self-education is the very best thing anyone can do to prevent becoming a target of scams.

Opt to critically read articles from local and national news sources, like your college newspaper, instead of relying on superficial television news broadcasts. Engage in online discourse, cultivate solution-focused discussions and remember that trolls only seek to provoke emotional reactions that prevent us from finding answers to tough problems.

News agencies also benefit greatly from an engaged audience that provides tips and story ideas. Editors and reporters make better decisions on what needs to be investigated when they know what’s most important to readers. Freedom of press exists to hold American institutions and leaders accountable.

MCTC students with the energy to take a more direct role in journalism are welcome to join the team as a reporter. Although research, writing and editing are highly-valued skills in the newsroom, agencies also require a host of other must-have skills including photography, video, graphic design and ad sales.

The newspaper is arguably the best extracurricular activity that a student can do to enhance their academic career. Participation in the newsroom also teaches skills that apply to fields outside of journalism, which sets students up for success in a wide-range of careers.

Mostly, though, CCN wants inform the student body of new civic responsibilities and engage MCTC in their newspaper so that we’re all prepared for the future and can effectively hold our institutions accountable. Let us begin by finding problems with our school, forcing open dialogs on actionable solutions and work toward continuous improvement.

CCN meets Mondays at 3:30pm in H.2901.

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