Informing The Public: A Lost Art
November 14, 2014
November 14, 2014
“In order to form a more perfect union.” This beautiful language in the Preamble of our Constitution suggests that there is always more to fix, more to do, more to aspire to. It has motivated generations of Americans to innovate and fight for equality; to change our nation for the better.
There is no doubt that this phrase alone has done more good than harm, but it is also partially responsible for clouding the way the media portrays accomplishments in this country.
Because there is no plateau, because no accomplishment is quite good enough, the media has a tendency to poke and prod issues in ways that they don’t need to be poked and prodded. Outlets tend to focus on the ideological differences of an issue rather than the statistical reporting or human realities. More readily will they criticize a bill or an accomplishment, a monthly jobs report or and uninsured rate, than they will celebrate the gradual accomplishment at the hands of a government that is bound to function in slow increments.
And while a 5.8% unemployment rate or a 13.4% uninsured rate or a particular stimulus package may not be perfect, the media has a tendency not just to report with an emphasis on flaws, but in doing so perpetuate those flaws by instilling fear and skepticism in the hearts and minds of the average viewer or listener or reader. Rarely do we roundly celebrate our accomplishments, and even more rarely do we dwell on those accomplishments.
We are reminded time and again about the bad news in the world, the terrible job Congress and the President are doing, the crises that threaten to tear apart the very fabric of our everyday lives. But in this prevailing style of reporting, an important responsibility of the media has been lost. It is not the sole job of journalists to be a watchdog of the people; to guard against and warn of imminent danger. This wrongly understood mission leads to a rhetoric of fear, sensationalism, and misinformation. It drives ratings and creates a culture of dissent and cynicism at a time when we need the opposite.
The forgotten responsibility of the media is to simply inform the public; to provide them with necessary information about resources available to them that may very well improve their lives.
If the media, both liberal and conservative, was less concerned with sensationalizing issues like the Affordable Care Act, it’s likely we would be a smarter, healthier, and happier public. But by generating outrage, many media outlets embed it into our thinking of the issues, making us less inclined to visit Healthcare.gov to sign up or inquire about the services the government provides.
It is easy to do what this type of media does: shout, interrupt, wave documents around, and attempt to poke holes in the statements of experts. Just about anybody can do that. What is more difficult; what requires more restraint and more awareness; what serves the public better is allowing guests to articulate their thoughts and share the information that could make a positive difference in the lives of the viewers and the public.
I understand the irony of criticizing the media and its journalists while preaching the responsibility of the media to do more to inform rather than criticize, so I'll dedicate the remainder of this platform I've been provided to lending readers valuable information on an important, relevant and pressing issue. Not enough outlets are fulfilling this forgotten responsibility, but it should certainly be emphasized just how valuable the Affordable Care Act has been:
With this information in mind, and at a crucial time in our country, let us work toward informing the public about their resources. Fear and skepticism serve as deterrents for those that are just as desperately in need of government services as they are unaware that they exist.