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Do journalists still need to check it out "if their mother says she loves them"?

Updated: Mar 10, 2023

If your mother says she loves you, is still worth to check it out?

Just rephrasing the key sentence by Edward H. Eilenberg, American leading editor who worked for major newsrooms like the Chicago Daily News, who had been having a wide echo in journalism since its first quoting in 1974. That journalistic ‘mantra’ appears extremely modern in our present Media situation utterly brought to its knees by recent big issues like the covid-19 health emergency. In 2020, a succession of news related to the pandemic was bombarding us from morning till night through each possible channel of information, highlighting a reality of our days. As a matter of fact, the ‘digital revolution’ has apparently taken away the primacy of breaking news from the hands of journalists only.

Photo >> Checking news through the Net & Social Media.
We have to wear our ‘digital shoes’ and climb up the Tree of Information.

Therefore, the global Internet and Social Media network cannot be ignored by modern journalists. It may itself be a source of information as for every citizen. But this does not mean to consider as ‘absolute truth’ the information circulating on the Net where the User Generated Content mixes it up with validated news. Even those we consider the most authoritative speakers can make mistakes sometimes. Despite the compulsive rhythm that reigns in the digital world able to process high-volume of data (the so called Big Data), we have to slow down a bit if we want to be properly informed. In other words, , straining our eyes extremely open.

Photo >> Tree branches.

Non-verified news, the ‘rumours’, started circulating well before the advent of Social Media.

If we think about it, in any of Agatha Christie’s bestsellers the detective solves the case after hearing only one witness. Moreover, the information received does not necessarily relate to facts but may be the result of a subjective representation of reality. Non-verified news, the ‘rumours’, started circulating well before the advent of Social Media. Word of mouth, in fact, has always been the best tool to make appear simple opinions or ‘urban legends’ as ‘truth’ or even a real piece ofnews as incorrectly contextualized. The real problem of this type of uncontrolled news is that its presumed reliability is due to its existence and circulation more than to its substance. Most of them apparently meet the need to give answers to the community in a way to intrigue, to worry or to respond to a specific lobbying interest.

This Media melting pot has even influenced the most authoritative newsrooms.

The Post-Truth Era, where every information is mixed up like a Media blob, gave perhaps the best or rather the worse of itself in 2020, on the occasion of the pandemic. A confused set of information from the most varied sources ‘flooded’ the most common networks, contributing to generate clashes of opinions and great insecurity just at a time when we needed to rely on qualified information only. This Media melting pot has even influenced the most authoritative newsrooms, some ‘technicians’ of communication and other fields of knowledge. And all this has prompted most Internet users to desire to close themselves in their ‘comfort zones’ creating their own personal reality according to their way of thinking influenced by social, politic, economic or any further points of view.

On the Tree of Information, every ‘branch’, ‘leaf’, ‘flower’, ‘fruit’ has its weigh.

On the Tree of Information, every ‘branch’, ‘leaf’, ‘flower’, ‘fruit’ has its weight in determining the reliability of a specific content. In other words, when we glance at any piece of news we should get back to its roots before lending credibility or take it as an unambiguous source, provided that the concept of ‘absolute truth’ has been in question for several centuries as the ancient Greek philosopher Protagoras reminded us.

Photo >> Comic by Peter Steiner published in © The New Yorker (July the 5th, 1993).
“I found it on the Net”.

Quickly returning to modern times, if someone tells you “I found it on the Net”, you need to start asking “Where did you find it?”, “Who said this?”, “What role does he or she play in the society?”, “What kind of Website is it?”, “Are there partisan or neutral interests in the background?”, “Are data, references and any links traceable enough?”, “Are they talking about facts or personal opinions?”, “Are information, photos or videos updated?”, “Are sources of information provided?”. In other words: “Are you dealing with good news, propaganda, commercial ads or misinformation?”. If that was already difficult before the break out of the pandemic, now it is even more tricky since information is increasingly ‘packaged’ for us by someone else, not always properly in charge of it.

Social Media censorships are just the tip of an iceberg.

Not by chance, Social Media censorships we have been assisting for a while are just the tip of an iceberg that has been nourished for some time. ‘Safe spaces’ academic associations that only bring together people who think homogenously in a certain way spread out from the States to other Countries over the last few years. Thus, a communication tool originally designed to give voice to those who felt marginalised, is taking on the appearance of a social division guise which questions the democratic values themselves, notably the freedom to express one's opinion. A meaningless superficial ‘politically correct’ and a set of mainstream preconceptions have already encouraged violent actions and offences out of any logic to follow a mainstream ‘fashionable’ thought rather than making reasoned arguments on past and present facts and debating consciously on future scenarios. Is it worth?

Photo >> Columns in classical Greek Ionic style, symbol of democracy.
Was Plato right in identifying the abuse of the democracy principles as the worst threat of democracy itself?

Recent decisions of “Giants of the Net” to condemn some public figures to oblivion or to Media pillory, make the pillars of democracy creak violating the ‘sacred’ principle of dialectics, that beneficial dialogue so dear to Socrates, which is able to bring out the ability to think with your own mind. A moral duty besides a tool of knowledge that had been inspiring and guiding thousands of people towards a global ‘renaissance’ based on ‘humanism’ much more effective than any modern Social Media, acting more and more like ‘diversity officers’ of a flat one-direction global communication.

Noise in the communicative process is always lurking as well as green washing, or green sheen.

Noise in the communicative process is always lurking as well as green washing, or green sheen while tackling major sustainability issues. However, we do not need to be wary of any information disclosed by the Net. Choosing contents of which the author is clear, as well as the professional role and expertise together with traceable sources of information and data, is a great start to select good news. So, "Mater semper certa est..." (The mother is always certain), as a famous Latin saying goes, but when "mother" stands metaphorically for "pieces of news", the information genetics have to be carefully analysed before entering the source among those verified. Our reputation and trust are at stake! ▪▪▪


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By Maurice Abbati

Springer International Publishing

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