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Check your news, and check it twice

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Jody Vance: ‘The Media’ is the solution, not the problem.

There was a time when fake news was funny.

Think The Onion or National Enquirer; it was sensationalist or satirical, but very few would misinterpret it as factual.

Those days are gone.

Today’s Middle is all about our shared responsibility to halt the plague of misinformation.

Not so fun fact:

In an analysis of the dissemination of Fake News in the 2016 US Presidential Election, Buzzfeed found that the top fake stories received more Facebook engagement than top stories from major media outlets like CBS, NBC, or ABC.

Let that sink in. Cancelled newspaper subscriptions and cut cables left many with the disinformation Petrie dish that is Facebook as their most viewed news outlet.

This is sad on many levels, but none so much as how that underfunding of reputable newsrooms meant culling journalists just when it became normal to blame the messenger.

Today my message is to be like Santa: check your sources – and check them twice.

Social media has taken an age-old tactic and made it slick: pointing to something while stealing. Spreading false narratives to disrupt or cash in is essentially digital pick-pocketing —from you.

Here’s another holiday analogy, with apologies to It’s a Wonderful Life, “every time someone blames ‘The Media,’ a criminal gets away with a grift.”

We aren’t immune. Any naïveté about the rhetoric here in Canada should be long gone. Yes, journalistic standards are much higher than some other jurisdictions (ahem: America) — but every day I hear it more and more: The Media is to blame.

Last week I wrote about frustrated Canucks fans, and saw one comment that literally blamed the media for that jersey hitting the ice.

No.

We need to flag the normalization of this trend. “The Media” should never have become a slur, slag, or slam. The lazy crutch of blaming shortcomings of the press as a catch-all for everything wrong in society must end.

Far, far, too many people are getting their news from unreliable sources.

Yes, I’m a protective and proud media member who can tell you firsthand how thankless this job can be. This rhetoric of negativity will ultimately see great journalists put down their pens, keyboards, microphones, and cameras. It’s hard enough without harassment.

“THE MEDIA, amiright?”

Stop it. Drop it. Because far, far, too many people are getting their news from unreliable sources.

Contrarian stances presented at maximum decibel level have swayed ever-growing swaths of exhausted people. It’s on each of us to do everything possible to reverse this trend taking over the narrative.

Canadian media outlets are not corporate pawns. I’ve worked for every major TV outlet and can attest to the credibility of the mission to inform.

Yes, there are ever more fringe outlets popping up. Those who pass themselves off as credible journalism with slick graphics — hyper explosive headlines screaming outlandish exclusives and constant Breaking News. Don’t bite.

Another red flag is when an outlet uses the term “The Media” in a derogatory way, or calls a competitor “Fake News.”

Notice I’m not naming names? Reputable news outlets do not attack or call out competitors.

What can you do? It’s quite simple: check and double check sources, confront false narratives when you see them, and be cautious about what you share.

Don’t be one of the millions who have fallen into the black hole blame-game of using “the media” as a place to dump all woes. Local, provincial and national news outlets have been built to hold power to account, to unearth things perhaps missed by authorities or discovered via sources and tips. Journalists are charged with the great responsibility of bringing facts along with perspective to some of society’s most complex issues.

If “The Media” has become your scapegoat, I’m asking for a rethink. The media is actually your best weapon against what you seem to think it represents. The Media is important. Freedom of the Press priceless. Let’s prop each other up rather than tear down.

Let’s wrap this 2021 year ender with something we can agree on: “Nothing is more important to our democracy and our politics than open discussion.”

For regular readers of TheOrca.ca – this is the first line of the “About Us” mission statement here. I am a very proud original Resident Pod member, and look forward to meeting you here, in The Middle, each Wednesday. We won’t always agree – and that’s okay.

Jody Vance is a born and raised Vancouverite who’s spent 30 years in both local and national media. The first woman in the history of Canadian TV to host her own sports show in primetime, since 2011 she’s been working in both TV and radio covering news and current affairs.

SWIM ON