On 11th September 2019, The Student Newspaper and The Debates Union joined forces in the Teviot Debating Hall to present a discussion panel on the interesting and notably urgent issue of media skepticism.
The panel consisted of Dhruti Chakravarthi, Deniz Yalçin, Magdalena Jablonska, Elsa Hesslow, and Jason Woods, with Nathanael Clifton acting as Moderator.
The event began with audience involvement where headlines were read out for which the spectators then had to decide whether they were legitimate or fabricated. Headlines included “Five guys have a fight at Five Guys”, and new reports of J.K. Rowling’s “woke” editing antics to progress the Harry Potter series.
Such absurd yet gripping headlines led nicely into the role of reporting in today’s world. With the vast output of news, it is hard for people to absorb it all. This leads to greater competition between newspapers to have their articles read, making the headline the key selling point of the article. In this bid to get the reader’s attention, is fake news inevitable or is it the reader’s fault for not reading the article fully to understand the nuances of the gripping yet highly interpretative headline?
In a further assessment of the idea of ‘fake news’, it was established that while the phrase is extremely recent, the concept has existed for longer than history itself. No event can be told in an unbiased manner (a point upon which everyone was in accordance), and with that comes a different truth for different people. Therefore,
buying into someone else’s truth is ultimately the success of propaganda.
With this thought on how our understanding of events can be manipulated came the question of how much the government should be involved in media consumption. The current issues in Kashmir, Turkey, and personal experiences of relatives who experienced media oppression under communism were highlighted; and w
here to draw the line between state-owned and private press in achieving truly free speech was debated.
Likewise, as readers, how responsible are we for the consumption of our own news? With the multitude of media outlets available to us, the sites that we deem reliable for our own news consumption speak volumes of our personal opinions, political affiliations, and more importantly whether we are willing to challenge those beliefs or only solidify them further.
It was established that to read every article ever produced is an impossible task for one person alone. Nevertheless, staying informed of various viewpoints and making a conscious effort to venture out of one’s echo chamber is both possible and comes with beneficial consequences for creating a safer and more inclusive environment. However, in achieving this, it was concluded that drawing the line in knowing how much news is enough to stay informed, all while maintaining good mental health in a generation of extreme worriers, is a personal decision only we ourselves can make.
Image: Frank Nemirofsky via Flickr