An elephant in the room

D.K. Christi

D.K. Christi

Member Musings features the reflections and thoughts of an NPC member. This month’s featured member is D.K. Christi.

This is a blog post. I did not file credentials. Including confirmation of sources and attributions are not required. To get a wider readership and highlight my other blogs, I may embed related links. Bloggers don’t need a journalism degree. Facts may be embellished by a point of view and persuasive language may replace facts. Bloggers may lie so long as those lies do not violate rights or laws. Loyal followers may even overlook grammar and spelling errors. While this blog post may be edited, most blog posts are not.

The style and format for a blog post, often shorter than articles, is up to the blogger. Seldom does a brief synopsis of the facts at the beginning answer the basic six: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? or taper from major to lesser pieces of information according to accepted journalistic practice. A reader may be guessing to the bitter end, drawn in by a search engine optimized headline and leader. Blog post topics are infinite in scope from the purely mundane daily diary to the latest scientific research or economic policy breakthrough. Blogger income is often zero or at best less than a reporter’s. A blogger has two measures: followers and advertisers. Quality and content are influenced by both.

While the above discussion of a blog post is in the extreme, it does illustrate an attempt to differentiate between formal rules and ethics that drove classic journalism and today’s wide open blogosphere – a diminishing line. Originally, blogging was totally outside the realm of journalism, thus, the “blogosphere.” However, mainline reporters combined with internationally renowned and highly reputable bloggers who do employ many journalistic conventions have blurred and confused the choices for factual versus opinion-laced information. Modern media is as influenced by advertising and ratings as bloggers are by click income and followers.

Major newspaper reporters blog. Television and radio commentators blog. Major news networks sponsor blogs. Bloggers from a wide spectrum of subject expertise comment on the news as it’s breaking. Whose news is real? Who has the facts? Who is vetting the sources? Whose news is first and who is reporting on whose article or blog? “Blur” is barely descriptive enough.

Regardless of the news source, decades of scientific research studies indicate people only receive a select bit of information from what they read, see and hear as it’s filtered by their personal biases. Even time alters facts. Filtering is the brain’s self-protection mechanism to protect it from chaos. To simplify the organization of information, the brain prefers to remember information most closely resembling that already filed in the subconscious and conscious mind. Thus, choosing information sources that support a personal perspective is logical and efficient. Repetition is the surest path into a filtered mind. Repetition is the tool of the astute politician or promoter and the reason for repetitious sound-bite popularity. It is not the path to truth.

This natural inclination to filter information to suit one’s own culture, environment, education, experience and beliefs makes the search for truth close to a fool’s quest. Truth is much like the elephant being described by six blind men in the ancient Indian parable. The man at the tail believes the elephant is like a rope. The man feeling the tusk describes the elephant as a dangerous foe. The one who bumped up against the leg described the elephant as a tree. The tale continues with each body part explored leading to a different conclusion. Heated arguments follow as each man supports his conclusion with his own experience.

Today’s news comes from multiple sources with a wide range of vetting from none to the remaining attempts at unbiased reporting according to journalistic and ethical parameters. As the lines blur between blogging, commentary and journalism, the choice of a news source is left to the filtering of the individual consumer. For the seeker of truth, one source of the confusion, the Internet, is also the source to investigate a blogger’s or reporter’s credentials, Google sources for confirmation, and even travel via Google Earth, Skype, and cellphone feeds to live news as it happens.

Establishing a variety of reliable news sources provides no rest for the inquiring mind seeking the definition of an elephant. As electronic information merges and credentials blur, vetting responsibilities that once rested with publications and editors are passed on to the consumer. Beware. Electronic media are an open source with many lies masquerading as the truth. What passes as news reporting in specialty ezines, online newspapers and newsletters may be blogs in the purest sense masquerading as news – or the truth buried in a blog.

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