Keeping a Free Press Honest

Multiple viewpoints all right and wrong at the same time.

Multiple viewpoints all right and wrong at the same time.

I have been fascinated with mass media for the past eight years or so. Mass media is such an important facet of life that it is almost impossible to come across anyone that is purely disconnected from the radio, television, newspapers, or even the internet. We live in a connected world not by force but by choice. Humans are naturally social beings resulting in the need to be connected and updated.

 

Journalists and the press have to be held accountable just as politicians are pushed to.

 

I love writing and have always been very concerned about how objective a piece of writing is. Both objectivity and accuracy reside in the ethics of journalism, yet such values are not upheld sufficiently. I’ve been consistently thinking about how the press can be kept honest. Ensuring that the press has its freedom is important. However, it is also imperative that this freedom is not wielded with impunity. It is funny how we tend to see journalists and politicians as different beings. In reality, everyone has their own agenda and incentives. Journalists and the press have to be held accountable just as politicians are pushed to.

 

 

Past Solutions

How do we get this done? In my previous post, I was looking for solutions that could keep the press balanced. My approach then was to see the press as an entity that could be tweaked to perfection. These led to ideas of introducing many differing viewpoints in hope of a balance or bringing in a crowd driven voting system – a democratic press if you like. These were ambitious solutions that would have been difficult to start out with. I personally went from reading Straits Times and CNN about 10 years ago, to expanding my sources to cover BBC, Al Jazeera and other small time news agencies in countries of my interest. That took quite a bit of time. I need something that is faster, easier and more transparent.

 

I need something that is faster, easier and more transparent.

 

The solutions that I proposed in the past were realized in some form when a U.S. based site was launched in attempts to be perfectly balanced in biasnesses. Looking at the difficulties of its launch in a ferociously freedom driven country made me rethink what could be implemented here.

 

 

Taking Baby Steps

An easier way of introducing a form of accounting to our current press options is to profile each writer. Profiling has to be objective. The idea here is to generate a database of articles tagged to an author. As such, every author that writes for Singaporean newspapers will have a list of articles and excerpts of legal length tagged to his / her name chronologically.

 

Every author that writes for Singaporean newspapers will have a list of articles and excerpts of legal length tagged to his / her name chronologically.

 

This idea is rather simple and serves only to give any reader an idea of what the writer is like. The style of his writing, topics of expertise and personal perspectives can be extracted from large series of data. Even changes over time can be monitored in this manner.

This database should be made public without third party comments in order to keep the presentation of content as pristine and untouched as possible. This should also serve as a useful tool for researchers and analysts who want to know the exact background of the articles they are reading.

 

 

Context, Context, Context

By using the word ‘bias’, I am already passing a form of judgement. Everyone is biased against and for everyone else. There’s no purely objective person. World views are shaped from different backgrounds, styles of upbringing and contextual influences from a massive variety of inputs.

The best way to deal with this is to allow anyone and everyone to judge for themselves. I’ll be finding ways (mostly technical means) to get this done. Hopefully, it can be an automated system that will serve the interests of the public at large.

Anyone who wields the power of mass communication must be willing to deal with scrutiny. And this includes the free press as well.
 

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