Can you trust the media?
How can you know what you’re reading/seeing/hearing is the truth?
When people get most of their news from Facebook, are they simply living in an echo chamber where their own opinion is reinforced, rather than informed?
These were the types of discussions I got to have over the past two Wednesday evenings as the guest speaker at the Philosopher’s Café. These monthly events see people gather and discuss – in a moderated and respectful way – sometimes controversial topics about the way we see the world, the way we govern ourselves and the beliefs we hold. Two sessions are held on each topic – one in the Comox Valley and one in Campbell River.
I should start by saying the “Café” is not what I’d expected, because the term is probably causing you to see a false picture of what was happening.
I was picturing – as you may be if you’ve never been – a few tables of people sitting around a coffee shop having a casual chat over a cup of tea or coffee. Maybe there would be scones. I pictured there being scones.
I watched as organizer Peter Schwarzhoff began setting chairs around the community room at the Comox Valley Berwick in a little circle, starting with the two he and I would sit in.
I thought, “Oh, that’s nice. Then we can all see each other while we chat.”
Then he made another circle behind that one. And another circle behind that one. He was leaving little space between the chairs, other than a gap once in a while so people could get in and out of the circles.
“Uh….seriously?” I asked?
“I hope we have enough chairs,” he replied.
Then the people started flowing in and filling them. And fill them they did. Then they stood around the outside of the room. There must have been over 100 people in there.
I found a bathroom. I could do this, right?
I’m a journalist, and I’d like to think I’m a reputable source of information, so I should be able to talk about the differences between good information and bad, how to tell those things apart, and how I’m watching the dumbing down of the human race happen before my very eyes, right?
I should be able to lay blame somewhere.
I should be able to defend my profession.
I should be able to tell them to read all the newspapers, all the magazines, all the websites – to read everything they see from all sides of the political spectrum, and then question everything you’re reading, look for proper sourcing and citation, and be skeptical. I should be able to say this because I know that we in “THE MEDIA” are really doing our best to inform you rather than lead you to some kind of conclusion we’ve come up with and now want you to believe. We’re trying to educate and make people better able to come to their own conclusions on things, not lead you around by the nose, as they say.
I should be able to say that we’re trying to – as I’m doing with my seven year-old son – help create a population of people who can look critically at the world and make them want to be a positive difference within it.
But I knew I couldn’t defend us.
Because there is no “us.”
You can’t trust “the media,” because “the media” as an entity, doesn’t exist. “The media” is actually a group of individuals, each of whom make individual decisions on how to disseminate information to the public.
I don’t have the space nor the time to recount the entire discussions from both nights, but I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed myself – despite it not being at all what I expected going in – and I encourage anyone who hasn’t attended one of these discussions to do so. They’re on a break for the summer, but they’re back at it in September, and looking for topics and speakers.
Contact peter with your ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org and get on his mailing list so you know about upcoming events.