Ganymede, shown here casting its shadow on Jupiter, is difficult to interpret

A noticeable aspect of our culture is a vast array of news sources, with none reliably nonpartisan or completely trustworthy. News stories not fitting the narrative desired by particular news organizations are actually suppressed. Despite all the news sources available on the Internet, it’s harder now than ever to figure out what is actually going on. Once great newspapers like the New York Times or the Washington Post simply do not report on events that might help Republicans, such as Hunter Biden’s laptop contents, the FBI’s involvement in spreading false stories about Russian interference in the last presidential election, problems with vaccines, etc. In some cases they actually disparage information contrary to what they want people to believe. And it’s the same on the other side, if not worse. I find it almost impossible to watch or read some of the right wing news organizations’ output. So what has happened to “Journalism Ethics”? Why are all news organizations, with a very few exceptions, pushing narratives instead of reporting facts?

The answer is not complicated, and as usual, we have the Internet to blame, although in a roundabout way: Being a news reporter used to be a glamorous and well paying job. Time Inc., now no longer even an independent organization (or Time Magazine even owned by Time Warner, which is now part of AT&T), used to be known as “Paradise Publishing” because the pay and benefits were so great, plus the job was exceptionally prestigious. Journalists were well paid, admired, often Ivy League graduates, and sent around the world to report on stories. For a person wanting to live the American dream and raise a family, it was a steady, lucrative, interesting, and admired career. The journalistic code of ethics (still good but revised a bit to cater to our current “journalists”) was taught and strictly enforced by news organizations.

Then the Internet showed up, completely turning the economics of news on its head. Newspapers died or withered, reporters were laid off in droves, and many new sources of news appeared online, only to die shortly thereafter, to be replaced by something else online. Importantly, the money just wasn’t there any longer–your normal person who believed in the American Dream and wanted to raise a family, no longer considered journalism as a career because it paid poorly, certainly wasn’t prestigious, and worse, was a very insecure job, with layoffs always a possibility. 

So who now studies journalism? It’s not someone aspiring to the American Dream. Now, to be a journalism major, you’ve got to be a political activist with an extreme interest in politics, often single without children, so without as much of a need for a steady income. That’s who goes into journalism–people with strong points of view which they want to spread to others. Giving differing viewpoints or stories that fuel “the enemy camp” are not published. 

Where’s this leave the average citizen? There are many, many, ad nauseum, news sources, so you’ve got to read a variety of stories, because the facts are still out there. Unfortunately, which facts are actually facts is quite hard to determine these days, which goes a long way towards explaining why our country is so polarized–there is no one place to go to learn the truth. You have to figure it out yourself, and unfortunately, all people have beliefs (AKA prejudices) that drive what they believe to be true. Beliefs are very hard to change, and today there is no “Walter Cronkite” who is so trusted that he or she can bring people together for a common narrative.