The mainstream media is often called out for fake news or corruption or peddling a political agenda that’s incompatible with free, fair and factually accurate reporting of the news.
This accusation is not always fair. Much of the factual inaccuracy comes from the corruption of only a small portion of the media but this infects the whole media landscape. Journalists tend not to take an uncorroborated source at face value creating a barrier between people imbibing the media and possible infection by untruth going viral.
But nowadays journalism is suffering the degraded profit model of the big media companies struggling to integrate the internet and the atomised customer base. Journalists have less time to pursue a story to the truthfact at its heart.
Giving them the benefit of the doubt, let’s say almost all journalists try to do good and report true, which they do almost all of the time.
Simple thought experiment. Let’s consider a media landscape made up of 100 Good Journalists, who all know one another and all know they can trust one another. These Journalists are on point and accurate in a impressive 99% of all their stories, 99% of the time. Thus if a journalist wrote one article a year, he would only write a factually inaccurate piece once every hundred years!
So far so good.
Not only do we have one journalist writing articles at 99% accuracy but a hundred journalists with the same excellent relationship with truthfact.
Each day on this media landscape there’s 100 news stories.
Each one is covered by one of the 100 journalists and as we’ve seen, the journalist reports with 99% accuracy.
Every article, by all 100 journalists, is read and absorbed by the 99 journalists.
Let’s assume the reading and absorption is 100% effective so no loss of fact by the raw information propagation.
The beliefs, politics and convictions of the 100 journalists are defined by passing time exploring the news landscape and imbibing all 99 fellow journalists so as to stay up to date all the time.
So we have 100 journalists writing with 99% accuracy, their output defining the narrative of the time as a certain accumulation of fact and opinion get parsed through the prism of contemporary society.
There is a fundamental problem here and it’s one that leads ultimately to corruption of the truth and degradation of all journalists. Let’s examine what happens to accuracy among the 100 journalists, where none have any secrets and all must report an income and expenses day to day.
- Day one – the prevailing opinion of the 100 journalists is at worst 99% accurate so journalists remain 99% informed about their world. This is OK!
- Day two 99% accuracy so including day one we are now at 98.01% of Journalists are informed based on truthfact.
- Day three 99% accuracy, 97.03% informed.
- Day ten 90.2% accuracy
- Day 100 and accuracy is under 10%.
The above downshift in accuracy percentage is stark and it doesn’t even factor in cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias, editorial directive, political and ideological mandate.
* This observation is made looking at the Guardian writing a hit piece on former darling Morrissey because he expressed some sympathy for Tommy Robinson**, former EDL leader, insurgent, anti-Islamic campaigner and working class “lad” complete with temper and love of a good fight.
** Robinson is more complicated than mere fascist soldier and though there’s plenty of reason to dislike him, those quoted are either inaccurate or disingenuous. Morrissey’s support isn’t for Robinson as a far right racist. He may be wrong but it’s a false self-serving caricature; and just as much a reason for the current degradation of civilly and the social contract as the exploitation-libertarianism papers like the Guardian try so hard to oppose.