WHEN WE SUBSCRIBE TO A NEWSPAPER OR A MAGAZINE, we are, in a manner of speaking, buying knowledge. We also presume, probably rightly,that the price of the publication that we buy would have been much higher had it not been for the ad revenues the papers earn. The survival of a newspaper or a magazine therefore appears to depend on the businesses which bring in the said revenues. While we take it for granted that Governments and politicians will always try to exert pressure on the media, we are not always conscious of the fact that at the cost of jeopardizing the economic life line of a newspaper, it would indeed be a brave editor who will decide to go ahead and publish, say, uncomfortable truths about a business which provides a regular stream of ad revenue. A substantial part of business news that appear in the press today are nothing but a rehash of PR handouts and press releases. The links between business and the press is indeed quite strong and I was privy recently to an instance where the PR Head of a company was chided by its Chairman simply because there was not enough buzz in the newspapers about him !
WE HAVE ENOUGH SPIN DOCTORS IN OUR MIDST who try to determine what the world should know. The recent instance of America going to war in Iraq on the basis that the country “possessed weapons of mass destruction” is a case in point. Even if one were to skip papers and access the internet ourselves independently for information we cannot escape the fact that what our searches yield are again severely limited by the parameters set for the search engines and there may be several perspectives on the same facts that may be hidden from us. We need to careful that we do not reach a conclusion that “if it is in print” or “if it is from the net”, it must be true. We do need to pause and reflect on whatever we read so that we form the right conclusions and take appropriate decisions.
FOR USEFUL INSIGHTS ON THE MANIPULATIONS that occur in the print media globally and on the internet, I would request that you add the three musts to your reading list :
1.Flat Earth News by Nick Davies (Vintage Books)
2.The Shallows – How the Internet is Changing the Way We Read, Think & Remember
by Nicholas Carr (Atlantic Books) and
3.The Filter Bubble – What the Internet is Hiding from You by Eli Pariser (Penguin/Viking)
One would doubtless be seized by a strong sense of skepticism after one has gone through the books but this is essential as we are already facing the consequences of taking for granted things that are dished out to us relentlessly by the media and the internet without bothering to find out where the truth lies.