In the 21st Century, with the Twitter cycle outpacing the news cycle by a length, with fewer people working for newspapers and, with Murdoch insisting that content has taken a step up to Emperor, stories move too fast for journalists to stop for anything as paltry and deadbeat as a fact.
The truth is dismal, slow and unsexy in this world of RSS feeds and instant Twitter fixes and papers are so desperate to keep up that the truth is the first thing to suffer.
Look at this article about Steven Gerrard, in which the facts have been played fast and loose in a bid to create a ‘story’. The popular news cycle is about soap opera now, not truth. We are living in a world where conspiracy theorists hold the high ground and we are so swamped with untruth, half truth and scurrilous supposition that newspapers or enemies of a brand (from the England team to Marmite) can feed whatever vicious fluff they like into the rumour mill and produce a story – such as this one about Gerrard and Terry, which skates close to a possible truth (in this case, possible enmity between Terry and Gerrard over the England captaincy) – that it is easy to believe.
It’s that ease that’s the problem; we’re all over-pressed with news and ideas on a daily basis to the extent that it’s easy to believe the spurious things that SOUND like they should be true. We need to get smart to it, however, if we’re ever to break the habit. We need to ask questions rather than let overworked and/or untrustworthy sources supply us with processed bullshit. The brand destabilisation that a well ground rumour mill can create needs able publicists on hand to counter the fug of lies and half truths that litter the Internet. All this has lead to the media having to sternly deny all of the rumours about Gerrard and Terry’s enmity this morning, as the FA is collapsing under the weight of rumour.
It’s probable that the truth about many things is suppressed; what we need is to be looking under the right stones. People want compelling soaps, though. They want sexy stories, not grubby searching. At the heart of it, it seems likely that they don’t want to go looking for the truth, as they suspect they aren’t going to like what they find.