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Mala Kustermann

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Clearing the Media Smog

The issue of media smog is not that different from air pollution. Vast sections of the population continue to consume the bad information from irresponsible media companies with little regard for its consequences. Like the smog from our vehicles that can ultimately engulf all clean air in a city, bad information can eventually contaminate the truth beyond recognition.

The International Standards Organization has long provided consumers with an assurance to a product’s quality, safety and reliability. The recently released ISO 26000 standard is aimed at social responsibility. While a certification for ISO 26000 has not been implemented, it does provide a common framework for an organization to adopt policies and procedures that demonstrate its commitment to operate in the socially responsible manner for the good of international community.

A similar standard could be developed to ensure that news and media organizations follow fair and honest processes to obtain and report information. This is not about WHAT they report, as much as HOW they went about collecting and disseminating the information. At a minimum, it could be a way for the public to recognize organizations that strive for accuracy and standards in reporting and show commitment to reducing the media smog.

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  • Jul 4 2012: Readers/Listeners beware certainly seems to be the order of the day today. However the question is that of the negative externality. When an individual reads and believes biased and inaccurate news (perhaps because they were too lazy to seek out better sources), the impact is not limited to that one person. Identifying some good examples of this would be an interesting topic in itself.

    So while it is fair to say that in the end people get the news they deserve, it also seems like a good idea to make it easier for the public to identify news organizations that have checks and balances in place to be fair and accurate as far as possible. Certainly not an easy task and not sure if governmental controls is the right answer. Any universally acceptable standard for journalism will have to be independent to be effective.
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    Jul 4 2012: Perhaps "Buyer Beware" should in this case be "Reader / Listener Beware". I choose stations based on what I want to hear. This is because we are all basically bias. Stations / papers / magizines are very open about their political affiliation and show their support by what they do and do not print / air. The rules say if I print something wrong then I should also print a retraction. So on page one in big print I say "Joe Doe is the ugliest person in the world" ... you object and demand a retraction. So I print a retraction on page 32, in small print that states, " I stated that Joe Doe is the ugliest person in the world. That is wrong. I met someone yesterday that is equally or maybe even uglier. My appoligies and sympathies to Joe Doe". All is well and I can sleep at night with a clear conscience.

    Lets say the government sets up a agency to monitor this, like the FCC. So the purple party is in power. The agency will be more fair to the purples than the limes because the chief is appointed by the party in power.

    Remember that on the air reports only have about 15 seconds to "report" a story. If I am interested I research it myself. It is your responsibility to determine what the facts are. If not your just another "sheeple".

    All the best. Bob.
  • Jul 3 2012: Sounds like a good idea. I googled journalism standards and found lots of stuff. Looks like a lot of people are working on this, but probably not the popular media that need it most. The popular news outlets freely admit that they are part of the entertainment industry. I must be getting more cynical, because I really don't think anything will stop the tv and radio people from pursuing ratings first, even if they publicly say that they adopt standards. The organizations that seriously try to produce good journalism would probably welcome industry standards.

    Pat has a good point too. To be effective, the standards would have to be monitored, and there is no such thing as an unbiased person or organization.
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    Jul 3 2012: Interesting idea however typically these rating organizations themselves are biased.