"The news and the truth are not the same thing..."

Said a wise man once, Walter Lippmann in fact, the American journalist credited with coining the term 'Cold War' and writing extensively on media and democracy.

I try to follow world news but I’m rather selective on what I read and what I ignore. When newspapers and the nightly TV news were the source of our world information, we were presented with most of the key and relevant events, we could tune out or skim the headlines, but we did receive a broad view of the hot topics.

In my home, growing up, the 6 o’clock and 9 o’clock news were prescribed viewing whether we liked it or not, my father would take a national paper which he’d read on his daily train journey to work and my mother would tune into Radio 4 for the lunchtime news. We now have the option to take a very different approach; we’re able to select the broadcast media organisation which we want to hear from, we can select the themes of the content and the types of content we’d like to read and consume. This makes the news a very personal experience and enables us to dig more deeply into the topics which resonate with us more clearly.

Kids, this is what the 9 o clock news looked like in the 90s.

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Social media layered on top of this enables us to hear individual voices, again we can select those we want to hear and those which we’d like to ignore. So, do these choices makes us more aware of the news? I’d argue that it keeps our interest level up, but it also blinkers us from hearing a broad range of voices, opinions and topics.

More importantly we always knew that certain media had a bias and we appeared happy with that approach. Of course, we always relied upon the BBC as a source of the unfettered truth! In the last few years the notion of fake news has grown with the media being portrayed, in some markets, as toxic. This worrying theme is growing alarmingly in America where lies appear commonplace even at the most senior levels of country leadership. Lies are divisive, unhelpful and distracting, they cause us to question what is right and who is honest and telling the truth. We are rightly individually challenged to have informed opinions based on good values and facts, and the latter are often hard to establish.

We each have an opportunity to make a difference in our world; to listen to others, to support those around us, to embrace change and to reject that which is wrong. We should be on guard and challenge lies and seek the truth, enabling us to come together as local and global communities understanding our differences but knowing what is right.

Let’s take this opportunity at the start of a new decade to change things for the better, to listen out for and reject lies and embrace what is right. I would be good, in ten years time when we begin 2030, to look back and say that the ‘20s were a great time to be alive.

Jeremy Rackham, Chair of Phase

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