Thursday, November 7, 2019

In the Media Revolution Truth Suffers

A retired newspaperman gives readers in the Eyes of the Believer's column in the Catholic Times something to think about.

It was in the early centuries after Jesus that the Bible was made into codices that took the form of books we have today (all books were scrolls before).

However, these Bible books were difficult to own for ordinary people. It was too expensive, made by hand and took a great deal of time. Covers were decorated with precious stones and pictures and lettering were works of art. It was the exclusive luxury of the powerful and rich.

Forget the possessing of a Bible it was difficult to borrow or even see one to read. This was true for a millennium.
Gutenberg invented moveable metal type and revolutionized typography around 1440. Gradually, the Bible, which was printed in large quantities on paper, was owned by many, regardless of power or class. Not only was the religious world benefited but all of human society was opened to knowledge and information. A revolution was beginning.

Of course, in print culture, Korea was far ahead in the world with a book published in 1377 with a moveable metal type, more than 80 years before Gutenberg's Bible. But the demand was confined within the royal family and the government and did not bring about social transformation. Guttenberg was able to popularize the invention for the millions and begin a revolution.

In the development stage that followed the invention of writing and letters, Gutenberg's invention of the type printing system was a revolution in the supply of media technology, production, and distribution. With the entrance of the digital media, the barriers maintained to entry to the printed word since Gutenberg— technology, production, and distribution all vanished.

The media system has been reorganized around one-person media. Everyone, both young and old, without equipment, production personnel, can produce news content for everyone. There is no need for a lot of heavy-duty equipment, production personnel, printing press, and supply network. These one-person media producers are at the same time consumers and producers. The media revolution was one of the most fruitful in human civilization.

Torrents from the revolution are inevitably confused. Let's condense the focus to journalism. As the ecosystem itself changes, the principles of journalism worshiped in the temples of former ecosystems are shaking. Above all, 'facts' are missing.

The central discipline for maintaining journalism are facts. Facts need to be distinguished from opinions, and the opinions of the reporters should not manipulate or distort the news. You should also identify the source, or sources so that you can verify facts. This was a basic condition for objective reporting, an essential device for the accuracy and transparency in reporting.

But today's reports from both the traditional and digital media: newspapers, broadcasts, the internet and YouTube you don't know what to believe. Of course, many contain fake news. Even if it is not fake news that manipulates facts, there are too many things that are not real news, but distorted news. They don't reveal the sources, often use opinions such as their own tastes or beliefs, or use passive styles such as "is known'' or "was heard'' and abuse the use of the term anonymous.

This is nothing new for, in the past, the need to distinguish facts from opinions was always present, but in the digital media this has become the mode of operation. News providers and consumers of single media often do not value objective facts or truth. What matters is their taste and belief. This is an attribute of departure from the truth era.

Traditional media such as newspapers and broadcasts are following this trend. This may be due to the survival instinct to adapt to a new ecosystem. Journalism ethics, the legal system, and education that responded to public media in the past find it difficult to adapt to the private media-oriented ecosystem.

A good example of the distortion of news is the recent Amazon Synod which met in Rome from Oct. 6 to 27. Most of the Korean news reports centered on the accepting of married priests in the final report; the rest was merely an attachment. Dishonesty, deception, and failure in concern for the common good.

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