We love information. In order to communicate that information, we need mediums. In today’s world this means we are dependent on things like newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and the Internet. The word media is simply the plural form of the word medium. These mediums have the power to influence people greatly both positively and negatively. Like it or not, you have a relationship with the mass media and so you need to understand it.
The first thing to understand about the media is that no matter what anyone representing the media may say, the media is not for you and it is not against you. It is not here to benefit you and it is not here to destroy you. It is a business. It is a business and everyone has their own personal reasons for being a part of that business and like any other business, everyone has their own personal best interests consider. The media is focused on one thing, what sells. And the only way to do this is to focus on what gets attention, ratings and subscriptions. Another way of saying this is the media is focused on delivering information or entertainment that matters to people. But the primary reason you should not immediately swallow and believe anything you see or hear or read in the media is because it is a business. When it comes to business there are always personal interests involved; the question is what interests and whose?
There are several elements that currently capture human attention and determine that something matters. Elements like conflict, threat, crisis, intrigue, intensity, the bizarre, death, celebrity, impact, timeliness, proximity and human interest (stories about people that evoke heightened emotionality).
We all know that the media is not exempt from corruption. There are ethics involved in any business. However it is up to individual mediums and the people working for those mediums whether or not they are going to behave ethically. This is the biggest concern when it comes to the media. I found out just how deep this corruption runs when the first major periodical ran a slander piece about me. When our entertainment lawyer contacted them, it was calmly and explicitly explained by both the media outlet and the entertainment lawyer that once you get ‘big’ enough, this is the ‘unofficial press exchange’. When you’re a celebrity, you don’t have the same individual privacy rights that a citizen holds. You as a person fall under the same freedom of press laws that were originally enacted to enable the press to write about the government and government officials. This means anyone can do a bad press article about you; after which it is expected that you will pay the media outlet a sizeable amount of money to run a positive one. After which they will do another negative one, after which it is expected that you will pay them to do another positive one. They consider this a win-win because it keeps you relevant and them getting attention. And the reason that you have to pay for the positive content is because it isn’t going to capture the same attention that a negative one would. No one cares how ‘good’ Teal Swan is. This should really terrify you because it means that if money can dictate what stories are done and published or even which ones are suppressed, the information being shared can be dictated by the corporations that would most benefit by that information being shared or not shared. This is what is happening right now with pharmaceutical companies for example. Nothing sells more flu vaccines than stories about dangerous outbreaks and doctors testifying that the anti vaccine movement is going to bring back all the deadly diseases of the past and tearful personal interest stories.
Every media outlet and platform is going to be different because it is a different sector of the overall media business. They are not all created equal any more than any other business is created equal. For example, we all know that certain news channels offer totally biased reporting and others are much more reliable in keeping with the ideal of balanced reporting. Some entertainment platforms cater only to men and others only to women. Every medium is an individual business that will operate differently. Something that needs to be understood, but that will create lots of resistance especially in the news media, is that it is not possible for a person (including a member of the press) be completely un-biased. We should all be completely in support of things like the ethics code of journalism. However they often run counter to human psychology itself and any philosopher could successfully win a debate where the argument is that it is impossible to be truly ‘balanced and fair’ when an individual is the one presenting information. This must especially be understood relative to news media because news is a business for journalists and reporters as well.
When people watch the news, they usually project that whatever they are seeing is being shared in the name of truth as if the sharing of the information is a good Samaritan act. Get this idea out of your head. It is being shared for the sake of drumming up good business. For example, a reporter isn’t a self-sacrificing philanthropist. He or she has a career. When he or she decides to cover a story, it is for the sake of the advancement of his or her own career. The way they report on a story, the content they decide to report on and the way they conduct an interview is based on one thing, their own success. When a celebrity or politician sits down for an interview, they are focused on one thing, getting their own message out on that media outlet. Even though it seems like the two are having a conversation and playing the same game of question and answer, their actual game is not in fact to ask questions and to answer questions. It is a game of mutual use and usually it’s a zero sum game. If the person being interviewed gets emotional or answers in a way that drums up any of the elements of newsworthiness, the reporter has just made a career advancement for themselves so they win and the person they are interviewing loses. If the person being interviewed doesn’t fall into any of those intentionally placed traps and instead manages to convey whatever message they want to convey for the sake of their own advancement, they win and the reporter loses. This may actually make it make sense to you now why the president seems to evade questions and answers questions the way he does.
When people first become aware of the reality of the media, there is a tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There is a tendency to make all media bad and to look at all media professionals as corrupt antagonists. The thing is, we want the media. We’re tied to it 24 hours a day. And the people who work for the media are people just like you or I. There are always conscious and unconscious reasons why we gravitate towards the careers we choose. To help you to understand the news media deeper, I’m going to share with you the most common pattern that turns someone into a reporter or journalist. Most journalists and news reporters were wounded in childhood relative to their own sense of personal importance. Because they couldn’t be important or special enough to the people in their lives to deserve their full attention, the closest they could get was to feel important by being a part of something that those people found to be important. They had to be a part of it all and in the middle of it, or else they were totally alone. The story that a journalist or reporter will want to tell or choose to tell is the story that will make they, themselves feel or seem the most important. Ironically, because of this, they are prone to ‘shadow importance strategies’. For example, there is a natural envy that exists in them towards people who are seen as important. This creates a subconscious desire to tear down the people who are important enough for them to report on. They also feel important in the power they hold which is being ‘in the know’ and being ‘in control of the perspective of the viewer’ (public opinion).
All this being said, most media professionals have a moral streak. Most were conscious enough of being hurt by someone and conscious enough of their need to be included by others that they do not want to be the bad guy. They don’t want to be important for something bad. This is why they come up with ways to justify and condone their actions. For example, they are justified in pretending to be sympathetic when they aren’t, because it caused the bad guy to expose himself. The other ‘sister wound’ that drives people to become a journalist or reporter is along these lines of morality. The wound is: Being hurt by un-truths. They have this in common with many scientists as well. This is the wound that makes this profession more enticing than other professions where one could get importance in a round about way. I have never met a reporter or journalist who wasn’t significantly wounded in their life because of false information, naivety, gas lighting, lying and/or other forms of consequences that specifically involve un-truths. Because of this, truth and what is real becomes an obsession and they often see themselves as public heroes for seeking out and exposing the truth so that others can be spared that pain that they experienced in their early life. Truth becomes their definition of safety for themselves and others.
A journalist or reporter will eventually find themselves in an existential crisis relative to truth itself. The more they see that truth is difficult to establish, can be spun and influenced with inflection, is much more complicated than meets the eye, involves multiple perspectives and is a philosophical debate in and of itself, the less stable and safe they will feel in the world. How a journalist copes with this truth crisis determines how good or bad they will be at adhering to the ethics of journalism.
Obviously there are many wounds and motives and beliefs that would negatively tarnish one’s ability to accurately seek and tell the truth. Obviously when a person’s own importance and career advancement juxtaposes the truth, it presents a conflict of interest for someone who possesses both interests. But truth seekers and truth tellers are needed. Information is needed. And entertainment holds immense potential.
Media is a business just like any other business and you actually have way more control over the media than you think. This is my core message for you today… Because the media is a business that operates according to what gets ratings, subscriptions and attention, it is in fact people (you and me) that are in control of what is on the media. Even though much of what drives attention is biological, you can have conscious awareness of this and therefore be in a place of free will and choice. The media is primarily a reflection of what interests humans. If people change what they are interested in, the content on the media will change. Every time you watch a show, every time you click on a news story, every time you tune into a podcast, you are voting for what information is important to you. And each vote you cast adds up to the picture of what is important to the human race. So from this day forward, when it comes to giving your attention to anything, think about your vote. If something is important enough to capture your attention, ask yourself why that thing is important to you. Everything you click on or watch is an invitation for the media to show you more of that. For that reason, everything you deem important enough to deserve your attention is shaping the future.