Can the media ever be relied upon to convey the truth?

Interpretation of Keywords

Ever : at any point in time/in any circumstances

Relied upon : have faith in its reliability / trust its reliability

Truth: facts and opinions that are trustworthy/reliable

The media : traditional media + social media/new media

 

Arguments + Examples for why the media cannot be relied upon

 

1st argument:

The media are often subject to the political manipulation of the Powers That Be (institutions or individuals in power)and the media hence may end up being a mouthpiece of the state in fulfilling its political agenda. As a result, information or opinions in the media may be politically distorted, regulated or forcefully censored due to political censorship.

 

Examples:

During Arab Spring Revolutions, countries such as Tunisia, Libya , Syria and Egypt imposed censorship on traditional media platforms such as state-own newspapers to restrict the socio-political discourse among citizens especially at the height of the revolutionary wave.

People often refer to the “Great Firewall of China” as a cyber-policing system imposed by the Chinese government to censor, restrict and regulate information or viewpoints that challenge the political integrity of the state.

Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong (a series of protests that advocate the universal suffrage of Hong Kong citizens) 

The media coverage and opinions about Umbrella Movement were censored or tightly regulated in mainland China as the political event was one that was highly delicate and contentious.

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It would be unwise in this case to regard the media as truthful, as alternative and subversive views are muted, whilst pro- government propoganda remains rampant on the media. In this instance the media is biased and therefore unable to convey truth, as it is heavily influenced by the powers that be to suit their own interests.

 

2nd argument:

The reliability of the media is often tarnished by the excessive pursuit of profit motive and commercial interest, which has severely degraded the quality and accuracy of information portrayed in the media.

This is so as there is the tendency for the media to place commercial interest before journalistic ethics, and as a result, accuracy of information takes a back seat.

 

Example:

Entertainment tabloids that prey on readers’ voyeuristic obsession / preys on the pervasive voyeuristic culture in the media industry — with the private lives and sensationalised gossips about celebrities and public figures.

 

At times, in a bid to compete for readers’ attention and curiosity/in a bid to increase readership and viewership,  many tabloids and news outlets are accused of fabricating and exaggerating / sensationalising information and opinions in these tabloids.

 

One also has to bear in mind that there is rampant circulation of inaccurate information and fake news on social media these days.

This is because social media is essentially a user-driven platform where information can be posted by random netizens with very fewer checks and balances, compared to mainstream media. As a result, the lines between what is true and false are increasingly blurred, as disinformation can be posted by people with or without credibility.

 

Example:

The current spread of bogus news on social media that is engulfing the global community , especially opinions that are deliberately created to either support or oppose Donald Trump

A Facebook post featuring the endorsement of Pope Francis towards Donald Trump has turned out to be merely fabricated, after it was already shared and viewed by millions.

Fake Facebook accounts created to impersonate the Members of Parliament in Singapore recently. These impersonators use falsified facebook accounts to steal money and sensitive information from people online. 

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Fake news and acts of fruad found on media sites are telling of the unreliable nature of social media, as people sensationalise and fabricate stories to serve their own needs, be it receiving more website click, or to swindle money from unsuspecting victims.

 

Arguments + Examples for the media can still be relied upon to convey the truth

 

1st argument:

The advent of social media in the modern world has enabled netizens to be liberated from the traditional censorship of the state, empowering netizens to express and circulate information that is otherwise silenced or blocked in the mainstream media.

Hence, thanks to social media, we now have access to authentic and unregulated /unfiltered viewpoints that we may otherwise not be exposed to in mainstream media.

 

Example :

The documentary #ChicagoGirl tells us the real-life story of a young Syrian girl using Facebook campaign to expose the political brutality of the infamous dictator President Assad in Syria.

She singlehandedly was able, through the use of social media, to convey the truth about syria, the truth about the savagery and cruelty that the people had to endure.

 

2nd argument:

One needs to bear in mind that the work of investigative journalism can be ground-breaking as investigative journalists seek to challenge boundaries and political censorship in unravelling/uncovering/unearthing truths that readers deserve to know. In other words, one can have faith in the reliability of the media, thanks to the courageous work done by the investigative journalism who vow to bring readers the unvarnished(complete, unpretentious) truth.

Example:

The Oscar-winning film “Spotlight” features the real-life story about the work of investigative journalism by the well-known newspaper “The Boston Globe” in seeking to question the deliberate cover-up in the Catholic church in the U.S with regard to the haunting issue of sexual molestation of young victims by the Catholic priests.


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Social media is a powerful tool to bring the attention of the world to things that matter, to things that need to be resolved. Social media, has been in this case reliable as it accurately portrayed the brutal bloodshed that occurred in Syria. Also in the case of “Spotlight” we can observe that these media outlets have been championing truth, however discomforting they may be. These outlets of media are clearly avenues advocating the truth