An education in truth

Sometimes your old education comes in handy.

The other day I helped flesh out 3 very different angles to an upcoming news release depending on the angle and tonality the team behind wishes to pursue, when they go live.

In doing so it (yet again) dawned on me how powerful the right wording can be; how you can use the right words to set the tone and provoke the thoughts you want to install while essentially saying the same thing at the end.

How your angle is just as valid as the next one. And how little is centrally controlled anymore when it comes to messaging.

And then I came to think about Erik Torenbergs piece on “How the Internet Ate Media” and this quote:

Everything used to be fractured and fragmented by definition. Then came the telegraph, then the telephone, and mass manufacturing, public education and more. We’re now returning to that early way of living before Peak Centralization. Structurally, we have more in common with the 1800s than we did with 1950s.

Using that to reflect a bit on my education as a journalist and the challenging times for journalists at large, I thought to myself:

What if journalism school also taught an “education in truth”?

Scrap all the stuff about finding the angle and write a story up. Focus on doing proper research, asking the right questions and – first and foremost – the ability to get to the bottom of things.

To a solid sense of truth. No angles. No agendas.

I think that would probably be one of the most valuable educations you could lecture/have in modern society as people who can navigate the chaos of (mis)communication without getting lost or crash will be in high demand.



Regulating media tech right

If governments were so intent on getting tech platforms to support quality journalism, they should be approaching the matter in an entirely different way.

First of all they should put a revenue tax on advertising at the source of the income, ie a VAT kind of tax albeit small they place on advertisers, when they run ads on big tech platforms.

Second, they should use some of the proceeds from that tax to support – and here is the kicker – fact checking, NOT journalism.

Why not journalism?

Because media has a tendency to elevate every piece of content into groundbreaking journalism, when it’s clearly not. Let’s just here mention celebrity gossip, ‘he said, she said’ arguments between politicians – funnily enough – often taken directly from said politicians Facebook page (without media paying the THAT privilege of course) and loads of other forms of content.

Why fact checking?

Of course because it speaks to the core of the problem on both sides:

Facebook in particular has a big issue with misinformation and fake news, and there’s no apparent reason to think they are any good at monitoring and/or regulating it. And media has a huge cost associated with quality reporting and fact checking.

So by taxing advertising at the source and rerouting some of the proceeds towards supporting fact checking, politicians would effectively be able to solve two big issues in one fell blow without breaking the core fundamentals of the internet:

They would be able to get tech giants to pay more taxes locally (as they should), and they would find a way to support quality fact checking/journalism, which is needed more than ever (especially in the absence of media themselves being able to figure out a viable business model going forward).

Do I think politicians will get inspired by the above?

Absolutely not. They are probably too busy getting their ears screamed full by lobbyists for media companies with little interest in doing this right. As long as they just get paid.

NB: I have no idea about how the practicalities of this would work, but I am sure there are more than enough brainy people out there to figure out the details.