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Technology Is Helping to Keep the Seekers of Truth Truthful

January 5, 2014 - 6:00pm

Media malpractice had become fairly rampant, but major change is in the air.

No longer can three TV networks and a handful of newspapers dictate what people see, hear and think.

The game changer is the Internet.

There is plenty of competition more than some of the media barons want, probably.

This means people get more than one viewpoint. That's almost always a good thing when it comes to opinion. Not so good when you are dealing with facts, which is another reason we should always remember the difference when we are faced with media.

The Internet allows everyone to be the media. Blogs make everyone a reporter, editor and publisher.

People can choose the blogs they want to follow, via news readers. I use one called Feedly but there are plenty of good ones.

Facebook, of course, allows people to get information directly from friends and acquaintances, and also promotes lively debate. Twitter is another information provider, although one I don't use much, admittedly.

An important change is that you can get news about government activities directly, unfiltered by the media. News releases from national, state and local government are available to everyone, either by email or visiting Web sites.

This serves another very important function that is helping to keep the media honest.

Politicians under attack also can respond directly, and immediately.

Gov. Rick Scott, for example, has been able to issue news releases on occasion smacking down slanted, unfair media stories or commentary.

In the past, papers could attack politicians and make them beg for space on the op-ed page to respond. Even that could be edited.

Newspapers that post their output on the Web also allow comments on stories and columns. Readers can give immediate feedback, and errors are corrected quickly.

Newspapers can still control the letters to the editor that they print. Incredibly, one Left Coast newspaper now refuses to print letters criticizing global warming theory, concluding that it is settled science right alongside the fact that the Earth is round. But with the alarmist theory leaking like a sieve, that decision merely serves to make the editors look foolish.

There will always be a need, I think, for people to do legwork interview newsmakers, track down facts that may not be on the Web and do other tasks that good reporters do. The mechanism for transmitting what they collect to the public is in a state of flux and people try to find a way to profit from the exchange.

True, people now can be inundated with information and that can lead to confusion.

But when people can get much of their news directly, or from other sources, and those in the news can respond quickly, providing balance and facts missed or ignored, the entire business of collecting and presenting news and information has changed and this is change for the better.

Lloyd Brown was in the newspaper business nearly 50 years, beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor of the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. After retirement he served as speech writer for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

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