Journalism a reflection of public consciousness, not a subversion of it

Journalism a reflection of public consciousness, not a subversion of it

Thoughts can be like atoms — like oppositely charged particles attract each other, seemingly random thoughts can float around, bouncing around my brain, unconnected, until they find some common ground and form a bond.

The scientific comparison may not be perfectly sound, but it works to demonstrate how I tend to think. There are many things I’m pondering, and it will be an experiment, of a kind, to see if my thoughts can translate into words and make for a cohesive column.

I’ve been thinking of collective consciousness lately. I had a teacher once who said she thought that society as a whole teaches itself its morals.

For better or for worse, she may have been correct. What we as a whole accept and tolerate generally forms the basis of society’s morals, though you’d need a sociology major or philosopher to dive deeper into that concept.

Collective consciousness to me, simply means when the majority of society becomes aware of an issue or takes up the torch of a cause at the same time. Human kind has evolved over time, yes, with developing technologies, medicine and laws, but it’s also evolved morally. Just think about an ad for a vacuum cleaner in the 60s that we largely find abhorrent now and you’ll see what I mean.

Perhaps more than ever, in this day and age, when information (whether correct or not) is exchanged so widely and easily, and with the increasing social pressure to conform to group ideologies, and the emerging “cancellation culture,” we’ve developed even more of a hive mind.

The reason I’ve had to ruminate on that lately is as a journalist, I’ve had to wonder what role the news media plays in the phenomenon of collective consciousness.

(Note I specified “news media,” as there are many kinds of “media” and they are all very different from each other.)

In the early days of my journalism program, a professor, as a way of introducing his classroom of eager young minds to the noble profession, stated that the news is only a reflection of what society finds acceptable.

The world has been collectively focused on COVID-19 and its affects, and then moved towards standing up against racism, in a kind of strange, parallel thread, that produced the surreal scenes of kneeling protesters wearing masks.

More recently, in the midst of these issues, an outcry has begun on human trafficking. It’s a dark, terrible truth that has always been there, but for some reason or another, hasn’t gotten much spotlight, but it’s starting to now.

I like to think that when news media becomes aware of an issue, they report on it. But there has to be a source, an event, evidence, information. You can’t report on what you can’t find.

Social media memes ridiculing those ‘still’ concerned with COVID-19, calling it a distraction from real issues such as human trafficking, are becoming more prevalent in news feeds.

Others still, have been raging against the so-called “media,” accusing them of misleading the masses, or perpetuating one agenda or another.

If you consider news coverage from the lens of it just being a reflection of what society finds acceptable, however, you start to see a different perspective.

We simply provide coverage of what is happening in the world right now, and what is of interest or importance to the public. We don’t create the news, we just report it.

That’s not to say the public can’t become fatigued with hearing about the same topic over and over again, as it has with the pandemic, but news media has to balance that with its responsibility to report information that is of public importance.

A journalist’s job is just to present the public with accurate information. We are trained to ask the hard questions, use credible sources and verify everything. We do our best to find the truth, and portray it accurately.

However, ‘truth’ is often subjective. How accurate the information is, depends on those in authority who are giving those facts. News media can only present the facts as given to them, by those with the authority to do so.

Sometimes, information can be uncovered through investigative efforts, but this takes extensive research and resources, which is not always possible, and only what can be verified with hard proof can be published.

The news media can only present the facts they are given and information they can find. It’s up to the public to make up their own minds about it.

Reporting on a public figure’s opinion is not an endorsement of that opinion, but rather the journalist presenting to the public what the points of view of their elected officials and people of authority and influence, are.

Although often misunderstood, journalism is my chosen profession, and one I find noble in purpose. We’re here to reflect the collective unconscious, not subvert it.