The news shapes the world around us, there is no denying the power the role of journalism has played in democracies and non-democracies alike and yet the more I read newspapers the less informed I am starting to feel. Recently, I finished a book called Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes; it is the title of a sci-fi short novel that subsequently became a novel.
The story is centered on Charlie Gordon, who is intellectually slow. Charlie undergoes a procedure that increases his intelligence, the procedure was administered successfully, or so we are lead to believe, to a laboratory rat named Algernon. As Algernon showed much promise the next natural process would be human trials. What separated Charlie from other candidates wasn’t his exceptionally low I.Q but his determination to want to learn set him apart. As Charlie’s intelligence grew it was his ability to look at academics in their fields of expertise and recognise that they know only so much information and while they sound intelligent and by all conventional standards of intelligent are by all means intelligent they still lack knowledge. And how can someone truly have all the information? They can’t. This resonated with me as I always wrestle with the idea of information and how it is disseminated, information and how it is perceived and so on.
In the first year of my journalism course, we as a budding journalist were encouraged to keep up with current affairs, which you know is understandable as we are journalists in training. Sometimes we would go into a more specialised class and the lecturer berated us for not having the same level of innate understanding of the stories that we should be paying attention to. How could we? Information and interests are in abundance, thanks to the internet, media companies, and television outlets it is hard to stay on top of the entire goings on and to not miss something.
Therein lies my problem with the information, there is too much to be able to stay on top of it. I have been trying to write a blog about the understanding of local government and elections. Writing and researching for the blog has given me pause for thought and question how local governance is of benefit regardless of how I felt or feel about candidates, understanding a bit better of the importance of the process of our current democratic system. It is a small example that highlighted to me that taking the time to understand situations in front of us is important to have a healthy understanding of things that shape our thoughts.
Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge Onora O’Neill in her Reith lectures in 2002 on A Question of Trust: lecture four: Trust and Transparency O’Neill discusses the issue of transparency. She argues as well as improving trust, it can also add to the ways in which the public can be deceived. That debate unfolded with Wikileaks and has now spilled over into the conversation of “fake news”. We as media consumers are stuffed with an over-saturation of information it becomes difficult to process. There is so much information that we easily forget the last headline we’ve read and therein lies a problem