by Dereje Amera
Published on: Dec 6, 2005
Type: Opinions

Our lives are full of unpredictable events and unexpected situations. Sometimes there is such an extensive amount of information available it is difficult to arrive at a concrete conclusion. People have different theories and assumptions, all of which influence our lives in a variety of ways. The world consists of tragedy and comedy. We live with mixed feelings and perspectives determined by our ideals. The way that we think and what we think shapes our reality.

There exists a lot of suspicion between individuals, society and institutional structures. This suspicion with one another has reached a point wherein no one trusts one another. As time goes by, the confidence and trust between individuals, institutions and societies is starting to be depleted. This exhaustion has resulted in fear and frustration throughout the world. To find out the root cause of this disastrous occurrence we must understand why our world has reached this point.

Is our world in good shape? In order to properly answer this question we need to find the best source of reference; if we are concerned about what the media is reporting daily, we might all agree that our world is hell. Every day, the media presents us with images of violence, killings and bad news everywhere. Stories differ about how these people are killed and the exact number, but it is clear to anyone listening to the media that our world is not a safe place and that security is relative.

In this day and age, we can all agree that a single airplane crash with many deaths is a big story. Historically, though, humans have lived through organized wars in which nations raised arms against other nations and people died by the thousands everyday. During the American Civil War, close to three million people fought and around 200,000 died. World Wars I and II took millions of peoples’ lives for nothing. In contrast to today, the events of 9/11, in which around three thousand people were killed, is considered a big disaster.

More often then not we hear about the killing of people daily, but compared to the past one can say that it has decreased a great deal; compared to the past, there is great improvement in this area.

According to recent research conducted regarding war around the world, “ . . . the chilling sights and sounds of war fill newspapers and television screens worldwide, but war itself is in decline . . . in fact, the number killed in battle has fallen to its lowest point in the post-World War II period, dipping below 20,000 a year by one measure.”

A collaboration with Sweden's Uppsala University, the report conservatively estimates battle-related deaths worldwide at 15,000 in 2002, rising to 20,000 last year due to the Iraq war. However, those estimates are down from annual tolls ranging from 40,000 to 100,000 in the 1990s, a time of major and costly conflicts in such places as the former Zaïre and southern Sudan, and from a post-World War II peak of 700,000 in 1951.

The research tells us that there has been great progress in terms of the decline in organized wars, which used to keep the hearts of people in a state of hatred and enmity. People and nations have started forgiving each other over what has happened in the past, and are trying to work toward new and better relationships. If that were not the case, so many nations would not have established relations with other nations around the world. This is a great sign of maturity and a step toward the optimistic views people have for the future; it only seems foggy due to the many complications we have at this point of time.

One of the things which contributes to a perception of exaggerated and magnified levels of pessimism in the world is the media. The media plays a vital role in supplying information to the public but there are consequences when, in some cases, the news is exaggerated or even fabricated.

The role of the media within any given society is indeed critical, but a proper and appropriate presentation to the public is of high importance. When we look at newspapers, their pages crowded with events which are not comforting and optimistic, that has an effect on the way we think about our world. This does not mean that bad things are not happening, but the ways these happenings are presented can be exaggerated. For instance, the media is interested in concentrating their cameras and minds on the Middle East, writing about and showing human atrocities, but largely ignores developmental activities which are also going on in these areas. They are deliberately focusing on bombings and killings. When people think of the Middle East, the first things they associate with it are bombs, or wars, or terrorism, which are all products of media presentation. But, in spite of all this, people are still traveling to these places to work and live.

Our thinking about nations and people is shaped by how influential media agencies perceive them, and those consequences last for ages. It seems that our world is living under the grace and mercy of the media. Radios, television and newspapers have an addiction to bad news, and it seems that they are not comfortable in delivering a delightful picture and hope for our world. We are forced to view our world in a pessimistic light, but the degree to which we can be influenced by these agencies is left up to the individual. Although everyone has the right to make one’s own choice, the effects of the daily news on our reality is evident. The media affects our thinking, perception and lives. The media shape this world, and the people.

One of the reasons why the media prefer to focus on such areas is a reflection of society itself. Many societies may not be interested in hearing about the good aspects of our world, for even though both good and bad things are happening, our reaction to bad things may be greater than to good things. Based on these reactions, the news companies are forced to deliver information which the public is interested in, since the nature of their business is profit oriented. Since they have incurred costs in establishing their companies, and there are also ongoing expenses, they are forced to dwell on the things that satisfy the public interest. To survive, they need to sell their papers or broadcast such information so that people may keep on buying or subscribing.

When public services are integrated with profit making, the essential values and integrity they need to have will be in question. In such cases, revolution or revivalism are necessary phenomena, and society may need pioneers who can change this condition to a better and higher one. The need to reform the scope of journalism in terms of translating these theories into practical action is unquestionable.

Journalism is a field which is mainly concerned with gathering, assembling and disseminating information to the public at large, so that the people may be aware of the truth. It is a mirror that reflects the happenings and interactions within the society in a form of story-telling, delivering the information as appropriately and properly as possible. It shoulders high demands and demands great care and dignity. It needs people of a moral capacity who have a true sense of responsibility and purpose in life. Inaccuracy and inefficiency damages not only the field, but also the society at large. It is beyond writing and reporting news; in fact it is a religion, where the journalists are the apostles, for it needs high moral values and ethics.

Various journalists have said a lot about journalism and how it affects the dynamics of a society and history. All of them agree that the field requires people who have the necessary skills and capabilities to handle the responsibility they have shouldered. It is a highly challenging, valuable and exciting field, involving the systematic reporting of changes taking place in the world, and it can influence and affect not only people’s thinking and behaviour, but also the political and social structure of any given society. The heart of any given society is in the hands of journalists, where they can listen to its pulse and try to mirror that in their work; without them life would be very hard, for they deal with information, which today is the nerve of human society. The need for proper and accurate information is so critical it is priceless.

Every journalist needs to have knowledge, skill and virtue. This does not mean that a journalist needs to be a saint or the Pope, but there are certain requirements that every person as a journalist needs to have due to the sensitive nature of the field. Even though there are capable individuals working in the field, the practical challenges that every society faces in terms of providing effective and efficient, unbiased and objective reportage are still apparent and still being worked through.

We need news to live our lives, to protect ourselves, bond with each other, and identify friends and enemies. Journalism is simply the system societies have created to supply this news. That is why we care about the character of news and journalism we get: it influences the quality of our lives, our thoughts, and our culture. If we are always receiving distorted information, our lives will be affected by such information, which will then influence our activities and plans as well. We might be able to get the correct information on our own, but the unnecessary energy we are applying in finding the correct news benefits neither journalists or our society.

The world we live in is full of paradoxical events; the field of journalism can sometimes not escape from advocating conspiracies. The field has become instrumental in promulgating hidden motives, which spoils the true nature of humanity. The field needs revolution and revival. Today, beyond the knowledge and skill that one is required to have, the virtues and qualities that every journalist should be adorned with are very important. Human values are more important than articulations; truthfulness, trustworthiness, courage and honesty are good principles and should be the foundations that every journalist should strives to build their career upon.

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