Truth In Media: The Importance of Journalistic Integrity


Author, Jackson Schneider, AOC Community Media Intern

In the case of news, we should always wait for the sacrament of confirmation.- Voltaire

The invention of the internet is one of the most impactful events in human history, and one that has changed our world, for better, and for worse. News travels in an instant, we can hear about major events in real-time through platforms like Twitter. While this has connected humanity in a way previously unheard of, it comes with an increasingly clear consequence: an erosion of journalistic integrity, and a new surge of propaganda. This idea of “fake news” is not a new concept. Yellow journalism has been around since language itself. The great Roman general Mark Antony committed suicide over a news story that Cleopatra had done the same. The Spanish-American war in the late 19th century was caused by a newspaper article blaming the destruction of the U.S.S. Maine on Spanish troops, when there was no evidence to jump to that conclusion. However, it seems now that propaganda has found new life on social media, with the intent of furthering a political agenda, or simply causing chaos by means of misinformation.

This spreading of biased journalism can also be seen within the twenty-four hour news cycle. When huge conglomerate corporations such as Sinclair control hundreds of local stations, the illusion of independent journalism is just that, an illusion. This poignant video illustrates the total control companies like Sinclair have over the news Americans are consuming:

By attacking the credibility of network news, and presenting these small local channels as independent journalists, Sinclair is encouraging the spread of the very propaganda they appear to condemn.

The problem with this shift in our news cycle is that getting your news has become a lot more complicated of a process than it used to be. When sources such as the National Enquirer spread completely falsified stories, and anything you see on social media is up to scrutiny, it can be difficult to discern what is real, and what is not. What is biased, and what is objective. What has an agenda, and what is genuine journalism.

The International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions have released this very simple infographic describing how exactly to spot yellow journalism:

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As society and technology move ever forward, this problem will not fade away. In fact, it may prove even more difficult to root out propaganda. Photoshop and doctored video can fool even the most internet savvy among us. All of this means that media literacy is more important now than ever before. Know the sources you trust, check your own bias, and do your research before sharing an article or viral image. When propaganda is identified, it loses its power. Don’t let it control you.