Quantity and Quality: The Media’s Role in Our Lives

Occasionally, I feel it’s necessary to wade into the waters of current affairs, public policy, and even politics. The reason is simple: the Core Values of Old Money that I promote don’t compartmentalize themselves into simply ‘private life’ or ‘personal choices’.

The beliefs that we embrace, the habits that we adopt, and the actions that we take on a local level and in often a routine manner impact our society. Sometimes in small ways, sometimes in big ways.

To pretend otherwise is to be unaware or in denial.

Most of us are engaged in work as a way to earn money and survive, at best this also gives purpose to our lives and fulfills our sense of ‘doing our duty’. As private citizens, our most accessible actions that reflect our beliefs are to vote in elections, to give to charity, and to volunteer in our free time to causes we support.

How we come to determine who or what we vote for, to whom we give money, and to whom we offer support is influenced first by how and where we were raised. Our education may expand and shape our beliefs. Personal experiences may challenge or cement them over time.

But by far the most constant, pervasive, and influential factor in shaping our worldview is arguably the media that we read, listen to, and watch.

In acknowledging that, we have to be very aware of what we’re defining as news, how reliable it is, and how much of it we’re taking in on a daily basis.

As I’ve said before, we live in the Age of Opinion. The internet in general and social media in particular have given a forum to almost every person on earth to express how they feel about any subject and all subjects. This is obviously a tremendous innovation with equally obvious dangers. I won’t dwell on those.

What I will call your attention to (again) is the role of the media: it is to inform and offer a considered opinion. As members of a democracy, we need reliable information in order to understand issues that affect us. We can then elect officials to address those issues, or we can vote on referendums to address those issues.

We need journalists who will do the hard work of uncovering facts and presenting them clearly and objectively, without fear or favor. Speaking truth to power, and revealing it to us.

We also need intelligent, circumspect, and thoughtful editorialists to present articulate and well-thought-out opinions. We may not have the time, access, or resources to understand every issue in detail. Journalists and experts in particular fields do. We should hear from them and think about what they have to say, especially if we might disagree with them initially.

We need to lean toward established, reputable news sources. We need to differentiate between Opinion and Fact. We need to be aware of the ‘slant’ that some news sources put on their coverage and the agenda that some news sources have, whether or not the source is considered ‘liberal’ or ‘conservative.’ We need to take a step back from all news sources, especially ones we like, and become discerning and somewhat distanced connoisseurs of information, not consumers of opinion.

I say this, not that far ahead of the 2022 election cycle in the United States. Rhetoric will fly. Accusations will be made. Promises will fill the air. Enemies will be called out. Hatred will spew. Dogma will reign supreme.

Don’t buy into it. Government is usually the ability to get sensible, moderate things done in a timely, deliberate fashion, in order to improve the overall well being of the general public. In its most efficient form, it is the dull mechanics of building roads, funding the military, and ‘keeping it between the lines’ by not running the country into a ditch by passing ill-conceived laws and/or wasting too much money.

At its most elevated, government is the idea that inspires us. It is the idea that justice applies to everybody, rich or poor. That opportunity is there for everybody, regardless of skin color. That happiness and security is due across the board, regardless of sexual preference.

Sure, we fall short in the realization of some of these ideals, but the work of government is to articulate, legislate, and enforce laws that reflect what we hold dear. It’s an inconsistent and messy affair with no clear or absolute victory, only slow but measurable progress.

Know these realities as you watch the news. Know that the media needs headlines and often promotes sensationalism. Limit your intake. Things are rarely as good or as bad as they appear. Getting you to hate your neighbor is a major victory for tyrants of every political stripe. People are rarely as good or as bad as they appear.

Remember that blogs are rarely a place to find reliable information. (That includes this blog. I offer inspiration, guidance, and (yes!) opinion, that’s all. Fact-check me at your own risk.)

If you just want the facts, look on Wikipedia for information about an issue that concerns you. You may find that the thing you were most certain of is mired with surprising history, disturbing nuance, outrageous contradictions, infuriating complexity, and few or no obvious solutions.

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. This we all know. More knowledge is a moderating thing. This we should all remember.

Know the role of the media. Keep it in check. Keep it at arm’s length.

  • BGT



3 thoughts on “Quantity and Quality: The Media’s Role in Our Lives

  1. Walter Cronkite RIP. It’s hard to tell who to believe because everyone has an agenda or a bias. The journalist is often just the starting point for me. We need to get to the original data and source materials to form a proper opinion. Most people don’t have the expertise or the time to go beyond the headlines.

    I took a decision earlier this year to cut out lower quality sources of information in favor of higher quality sources like The Economist. Lately, major sources of insight for me have included Cathie Wood and Tony Seba whose research on the economy and the future of technology has helped me see the future of business and humanity with greater clarity.

  2. Gone are the days when you could actually turn on a news channel/station and get some real news. Now, all one is assaulted with is rhetoric, opinion, bias, hate, and vapid vitriol. It’s become sad, really. Our young people are missing out. I shudder to think of the sources they consider to be factual, reliable information.

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