We probably don’t know where our tomatoes come from anymore than where our bread is baked or where our chickens are raised. As consumers we stopped asking those questions long ago – not because it doesn’t matter – but probably because it became too complicated to understand. And really, as long as it was affordable, easy to get and (we hope) safe, we probably stopped caring.
The same now goes for our news and information. We can plug into any one of thousands of “streams” of information anytime we want using our devices to capture bits of information to satisfy our curiosity, to follow events we keep tabs on, or simply to kill time. And we don’t seem to care where that information comes from as long as it keeps coming and keeps us entertained or engaged.
But now that we’re living in the Fake News era, knowing where this information comes from matters. I have two exercises for you that will demonstrate my point far better than any argument I can make.
Step One: Google your city. When the results come up, click on the “News” category and you tell me if those news stories are an accurate reflection of your community.
I tried this with the City of South Gate. On the first page there were three articles about a sales tax increase, an article about a truck rollover that killed a man, a press release from the U.S. Army about Native Americans bringing fresh produce to areas in need, and piece about a shipping container from Taco Bell. When I got to the article about breast implants I decided that was enough. So - what do these articles tell me about South Gate? How are they useful/interesting/entertaining/relevant to the people who live there?
Step Two: Pick your favorite news site - whether it's a major “newspaper” like the LA Times or Daily News; or one of dozens of news sites that keep popping up, or your community publication.
Click on the Staff section and ask yourself if the staff looks like your community. I don’t want to pick on these sites – they might be operated by well-intentioned, capable journalists who are doing a good job of covering the California they know. But are they covering the California you know?