In the middle of March, I found myself in London for the International Women’s Day march. It was a particularly moving experience, as the crowds were filled with empowered, strong, and – most importantly – beautiful women.
The march started at noon, and at first it was just the designated walkers and joggers – who were determined not to be late for their lunch dates. Soon, thousands of people were spilling out of the tube stations, waving signs and banners in support of women’s rights. It was incredible to see such a positivity-filled display of activism.
As the speaker after the speaker took to the stage, the crowds got quieter and quieter – until finally, an old man with a microphone in his hand began to speak. It was Desmond Tutu, and his presence alone was enough to bring the house down.
Tutu began by praising the UK for its record on equality, before launching into a passionate plea for gender parity. He then received a tumultuous round of applause and cheers from the crowd, before leading the marchers in a final, powerful “Amen – let’s keep marching!”
Joey: The Man Behind The Mask
The next day, I caught up with a friend for coffee in Soho. We were both a little spent from the previous day’s events, and we ended up talking about football – specifically, about Joey Barton.
As a Liverpool fan, I found myself defending his behavior as best I could. “He’s a good lad,” I said, shaking my head, “and he’s been through a lot. His father died when he was young, and his mother has had to raise him as a single parent. It’s not easy being a kid in today’s world. You need to understand that.”
I paused for a moment, choosing my words carefully. “But he can also get a bit carried away. He’s had a lot of shit thrown at him his whole life, and he kind of finds that funny. I don’t think he has much self-regulation. He doesn’t get enough sleep, and he’s always been a bit of a risk taker. I think that without meaning to, he’s created this image of a rebel. But it’s not really who he is.”
I shook my head again. “He’s a good boy at heart, and he just wants to be accepted. I think he tries too hard, and sometimes he doesn’t see the wood for the trees. But I like him. He can be a bit naïve, but he usually has good intentions.”
Dealing With The Media: A Difficult Balancing Act
For a long time, the media has done little to deserve the epithet “fake news,” but in the last year or so, they have gone out of their way to ruin a lot of people’s lives for political gain. Rumors spread like wildfire, and the lies can be hard to unravel.
The problem is that these days, people are more wary of the media than ever before. Just this week, Facebook announced that it had taken down over 200 million fake accounts. As a result of this, the media has to work harder than ever to gain credibility.
This is why it’s become so important for journalists to determine the sources of their stories, and why the concept of “fake news” is so damaging to the industry. It takes away the element of surprise from a journalist’s work – the element that allows them to catch a politician in a lie or an organization in a misdeed.
The Damage It Has Done
In the past year alone, the media circus that is Brexit has distracted the public from many of the issues facing the UK – including homelessness, poverty, and rising inequality.
This culminated in a major scandal that rocked the nation after journalist Duncan Campbell was illegally copied and pasted from an American website and printed in huge chunks in the Sun.
Even now, people are discussing the incident in terms of karma. Although Duncan came from a privileged background and was clearly a self-serving moron, many still see him as a kind of scapegoat, a man who was finally punished for his greed.
The damage done to the Sun’s reputation was beyond repair, yet despite this setback, the paper’s sales miraculously rebounded. Even now, it continues to pull in the subscribers, determined not to let all its hard work go to waste.
Toxic Masquerading As News
Whether deliberately or not, the media has also helped to normalize a very toxic attitude towards women. This is especially important to note in the current climate, where female politicians are being targeted with misogynistic abuse across social media.
This has serious consequences. Just this month, Tory MP Anna Soubry revealed that she had received threats after a speech in which she stated that the Prime Minister was more focused on “maintaining his brand” than he was on the country’s wellbeing.
Soubry’s comments were in response to the Prime Minister’s claims that Brexit means “taking back control” of our lives, an obvious reference to his “take back control” slogan. Yet far from being a private Twitter rant, Soubry wrote an entire column about the abuse she receives. She explained that people tell her she is “just like Theresa May, who they want to see torn down.”
Soubry has received this particular brand of vitriol because she is one of the few high-profile politicians who still works hard to combat the feminist stigma that plagues the country. Far from backing down, Soubry recently repeated the phrase “take back control” at a pro-Brexit rally. She was met with a chorus of boos, yet she smiled and carried on regardless.
In light of this, it is more important than ever that journalists learn to tell the truth from falsehoods. It is not enough to give the public what they want – whether that’s breaking news about a celebrity or an international development – if that information turns out to be false. And it is always the person peddling the fake news that suffers the most in the end.
The Lessons The Industry Must Learn
Journalists must be better at explaining complex issues in simple ways, and equally as importantly, they must be willing to listen.
Unfortunately, in today’s world, the news industry is remarkably conservative, and – as a result of this – has failed to update the ways it reports on issues. With an ever-changing world and the public becoming savvier, journalists must be willing to evolve along with the times. This means ditching poorly executed gimmicks and relying on solid fact-checking to ensure their stories are both fair and accurate.
If journalists fail to do this, they do a great disservice to the public and themselves. Not only does it make their jobs harder, but it also diminishes the power of the press as a whole. A free and independent press is vitally important in today’s world and can hold a mirror up to society, revealing its truth and contradictions. It can shed light on those in positions of power and influence, and it provides an opportunity for the powerless to be heard – a chance to fight back against the establishment.
In the end, we are all responsible for the way we behave. You may not like what the media has to say, but you cannot deny that it has played an important role in exposing wrongdoing and calling attention to important issues. In the right circumstances, a free and independent press can be an invaluable tool in the fight for social justice.