Part 2: How media corruption shortchanges the public

Posted at 12/03/2012 8:43 PM

How you can help reduce it

When information that you obtain from mass media like newspapers, radio or TV is slanted a certain way because a politician or a company gave money to make it come out that way, then the public is shortchanged.

Democracy is distorted.

The way it’s supposed to work is that in a democracy, the mass media help the public make sense of what American psychologist William James called this “blooming, buzzing confusion” that is our world.

Before Twitter and Facebook and blogs came along, many Filipinos tracked events in the Philippines through newspapers, TV and radio.

The role of a reporter is to sense changes in what’s happening from day to day and year to year, to notice trends and to report these as accurately as possible. Newspapers, filled with such reports, serve as guides to the public by highlighting what’s important in the placement of the story on the page and the size of the head or title. The most important story — in the judgment of the newspaper’s editors – is always placed above the fold.

When a reporter or editor succumbs to a bribe or when a newspaper starts selling editorial space to hawk a product or a person, then this sabotages the entire concept of what a newspaper is about. The reading public is misled into thinking that something is very important – when in truth it is not. It just looks important because someone paid for it to be so.

The same thing happens when radio and TV sell airtime in such a way that the public is made to think it is listening to news and not to a political advertisement.

When media misleads

Let me illustrate with examples.