The media plays a very instrumental role in our society. The media is everywhere around us. From the comedy shows we watch on TV, the music we listen to on our iPods, to the books, magazines, and the newspapers we read each day. In her book titled The Skeptic’s Dictionary:
A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions & Dangerous Delusions Carroll Robert observes that without the media, people in communities would be secluded, not only from the rest of the world, but also from administrations, policy makers and bordering towns and cities.
Although this is the case, not everyone sees the media from this perspective. Everywhere that we turn to, we are inundated with endless ranting on the negative attributes of the media. For the sake of peace, I do not want to be drawn into the petty discussion of the negative attributes of the media because as far as I am concerned, the media is doing a very good job of keeping the world connected and informed.
Because of the obvious good work that the media is doing in keeping us connected and informed, there is need to kill any debate that might impact negatively on the freedom and functionality of the media in our society (Robert 65).
Everyone agrees that the smooth flow of information is critical for the development of societies and the media facilitates this. Without a wide range of information, people’s opinions and views would be restricted and their ideas and conclusions of the society around them stunted.
Although I am not an expert at mind reading, I agree with Carroll Robert that none of those alive today would be willing to live in a society where they do not know what is happening beyond their backyard (Robert 67).
According to Nicholas Carr, the most widespread form of information circulation in the past was by word of mouth, with the news often commencing with the words, “Did you know…” Certainly, I agree with Carr that word of mouth is still one of the most effective tools in the distribution of information in our current society, mostly in tourism, but technology has enabled this exchange to take place in an instant (Carr 2).
This has created the way for improved media houses with the instant access to information thus bringing an instant gratification factor. With this kind of benefit, I doubt that anyone would want to look for an alternative communication channel. Just as Martin Luther King once said, “If we stop to think, we will thank more”.
This is true when it comes to the media since the problem with people is that they do not stop to think about the role played by the media and that is why most of them criticize instead of thanking the media for the good work it does (Carr 3).
Media workers are in essence interpreters of information. This fact can be likened to the act of a student who goes to the library to carry out research for a paper or report. After sifting through tones of information, all that the student is supposed to do is to back up a thesis in 900 words or more, or to simply explain an event, situation, or person. In the media, journalists are tasked with similar scenarios.
They do not merely dole out facts and statistics that the common person might not comprehend. Instead, they dig out the significant issues and points, putting them in a perspective that the average reader and listener can comprehend in order to form their own opinions.
The question that all the critics out there should ask themselves is what would happen if everyone, like a hardworking student would be left to sift through piles of records and data, or sit through press conferences, just to find out that the price of rice has gone up in Pakistan.
Instead of leaving us to go through this mess, journalists sift the information to ensure that each one of us receives information that we can understand in simple terms (Robert 68).
Journalists present us with the five basic areas on information namely who, what, why, where, and how. In her book titled Why Smart People Can Be So Stupid, Carol Dweck (2002) claims that grasping these five basic areas of information is all we need to know to be able to make informed decisions in life (Dweck 16).
Although I do not quite agree with her on this point, I concur with her thoughts when she says that the virtue of the media doing this ensures that we remain focused on the issues that matter in a surveillance type-way.
Some aspects of media scrutiny according to Dweck include the current stock report, sports scores, entertainment news, progress and outcomes of an election, among many other things. I believe that if we stopped to think about some of these issues, then our attitude towards the media would forever be transformed for the better (Dweck 17).
While the media has traditionally been viewed as being excessively aggressive and unquenchable in their pursuit for the latest and hottest news, their watchdog-type approach is necessary in a democratic society where people have to know what their rulers are doing.
The media, unlike the common citizen, has the ability to hold governments liable, forcing them to explain their actions and decisions, all of which affect the people they rule who as it turns out are the biggest critics of the same organ that is trying to work for their good.
In a democratic society, people should know all their options if they are to govern themselves and the media is the best-placed tool for the distribution of such information (Dweck 16).
In the United States and indeed many other nations, it is believed that the press acts as the voice of the people and this has given room for the Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press. The reason why Freedom of the Press is allowed is to ensure that democracy is able to thrive, so it is important to understand that such legislation does not only protect the press but also the people.
Granting freedom of the press makes the people to know what the contradictory views in society are, thus opening deliberation and discussion, all of which are healthy functions of a democracy. Just by looking at history, one would be quick to realize that the Soviet Union and East Germany both disintegrated after the media gave differing views from the society, thus granting the people freedom from tyranny (Shirky 5).
Apart from all the above-mentioned attributes, the most powerful strength that the media has in any society is its ability to bring about what Clay Shirky (2010) calls ‘surplus change’ both in the governmental and societal level. While this presentation mainly concentrates on the role of the media in the community, it is important to acknowledge the responsibility of the media in the community.
Although many people know this fact, it is prudent to mention in this paper that the media has a responsibility of reporting accurate information from reliable sources in an unbiased manner. The media has the obligation of obtaining all sides of the story, and to report on both the good and the bad stuff.
It is important to also mention that there are times when this balance is missing and the bad stuff ends up outweighing the good. However, this should not serve as a benchmark for us to bash the media since there are still media sources committed in ensuring that the community gets the right information and in the right manner (Shirky 8).
There is no doubt that the media plays a very significant role in our society. Many of the freedoms that we enjoy today are because of the sacrifices made by the media in pointing out the ills in the society and demanding that they be addressed for the sake of the current and the future generations.
Instead of unashamedly bashing the media for all the bad things that happen in the society, we should be humble enough to acknowledge the positive attributes that the same media has brought our way. There is no doubt that most of the media critics only focus on the bad and choose to ignore the positive side of media reporting.
The media is known to have contributed to some of the greatest achievements in human history such as the crumbling of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union. What many people fail to understand is that media freedom is not only meant for the protection of the media itself but it is also for the protection of the people since the media is seen as the voice of the society.
By shutting down the media as some media bashers have demanded, then the society will conveniently have shut down its own voice thus paving the way for bad leadership and evil to thrive.
Carr, Nicholas. The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains. W.W. Norton, 2010. 2-5. Print.
Dweck, Carol. Why Smart People Can Be So Stupid. Yale University Press, 2002. 16. Print.
Robert, Carroll. The Skeptic’s Dictionary: A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions & Dangerous Delusions. New York: Wiley & Sons, 2003. 65-70. Print.
Shirky, Clay. Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age. Penguin Press, 2010. 3-10. Print