2019-01-09 / Editorials

Martha Chalker

Choose Your News Carefully

Journalism is the activity of gathering, assessing, creating and presenting news and information to a community of listeners or readers. It’s separate from other forms of communication and indispensible to democratic societies. The more democratic a society, the more news and information it tends to have. So what makes journalism different?

The world, especially the online world is saturated in communication, but the vast majority is not news and especially not journalism. According to web security company Symantec, almost 70 percent of email traffic is spam. As far back as 2012, there was an average of 175 million tweets a day but almost all - 99 percent, consisted of “pointless babble,” according to researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. It’s been my observation that when people are dependent on social media as their primary news source, it’s problematic because of its tendency towards creating outrage and anger. The majority of tweets and comments on Face Book happen to gravitate into negative and even hostile territory. There’s been conversation on a variety of my news platforms, including Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter on Sunday morning about relying mainly on your choices of paid news sources to keep up to date on what’s REALLY going on in the news. I had already written most of this column when this program aired discussions from a distinguished panel on this very topic. Subscription options include newspapers like the Washington Post, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal and for more local information the Augusta Chronicle and our publications the True Citizen and the Millen News.

The newspaper industry has maintained its value to democracy because of its dedication to fact finding and ethical journalism. Our purpose is to provide people with verified information they can use to make educated and better decisions – to present newsworthy stories that address the concerns and interests of the readers. A systematic process and a discipline of verification are always used in finding the information we report. In finding those facts, we assume nothing is true, go directly to the source and don’t rely on just the authorities or officials. We strive to touch all bases.

Newspapers still have the ability and, I believe, the best factual opportunity to occupy the dinner table conversations and debates we’ve all had in the past. Newspapers have the facts, the moderators and the ability to share discussions and engage their communities.

This year, try shifting back to dinner table conversations like we had twenty years ago. Start with “Okay, I want to hear from everyone around the table about who the Democrats/ Republicans are going to nominate for 2020 and why?” In my family at big gatherings, conversations about politics, public affairs and even religion were definitely not all calm and measured. But the lessons we learned remain valuable to this day. If you are going to participate, you better be prepared with the facts, argue vigorously if you must and always, always listen to other people. Try listening without thinking about what you are going to say next. Occasionally turn the microphone over to other people to amplify their voices. Keep yourself educated with the facts, and yes, paid news is paid because of journalism and our continued dedication to serving our community of readers.

Martha Chalker is a personal and business coach with over 20 years of experience. She also practices cognitive therapy providing the PACE and MTC programs with Learning Enhancement Centers. She can be reached at 706-564-4458.

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