By And Large, The Media Sells Politics, Not News

Nune Hakhverdyan

Art critic, journalist

In conditions when the media has ceased to be the only and inviolable source of news (news is everywhere and has not been the monopoly of the media for a long time, as it reaches us much faster and hotter through social networks), the role of professional media has completely transformed.

And no matter how much we continue to insist and teach in universities for years that the mission of the media is to transmit neutral, impartial and comprehensive information, it is no longer so. Or rather, it is not only that way. For a simple reason, it has no price in the information market.

We form ideas about the world not from one or more media outlets, but from social media, where everyone is the owner of information and at the same time the commentator.

And the function of journalism has been dissolved among all the players that exist on the Internet and can easily and easily exchange information with each other without traditional (classical) media.

You no longer need the media to see the picture of the world. Browsing the Twitter news for a few minutes is enough to understand what is or is not happening in the world.

And the media with a solid and clear editorial policy, which has a history, experience and its own ethical rules (they are not news sites growing like mushrooms), take on new roles in the information market.

And first of all, that is their editorial policy.

For example, hardly anyone can decide that they can get acquainted with the events of the day only from the news programs of Public or only Yerkir Media or the news of the day compiled by news.am and Azatutyun, because they understand very well that the news will reach them according to the platform’s editing filters. And those filters become important for the audience.

In other words, we do not want a series of fast and neutral events from the media, but a series of important events from their point of view. We want to see their selection.

One way or another, it will not be possible to publish all the news quickly, it will either be late or cut out of context, taking on the appearance of a drop of continuous flows, which will never be complete and exhaustive. The flow of information consists of billions of drops (information units), and the key question is in which direction that flow is moving, for what purposes the media shows us that direction.

In the media field, the media can offer that direction as a market product.

Of course, all the media claim that they are objective and impartial, but it is a claim made only thanks to inertia and also with pathos. Every consumer understands very well the agenda of which media outlet makes its selection of news.

And if it’s an axiom that the audience pays the media for information (subscriptions, clicks that turn into ads), then it’s worth noting that the media is not actually selling news, but editorial policy.

And that policy acquires real value in the media field. It is not enough to convey in a neutral and impartial way what happened, it is necessary to say what it means in today’s context.

Based on the basic requirement of media literacy, people want to know what this or that media outlet writes about the news they know, and how it explains the news according to its editorial policy. Based on that, any media outlet already becomes a political player, as its product is not the news, but a point of view and commentary.

The point of view can be scandalous and superficial or deep and investigative, or of an extreme political tone, but it must be, otherwise the media will not be competitive.

The New York Times, for example, does not say that it sells information, it says that we defend democratic values. Hetq Armenia does not present itself as a gathering place for news but says that independent investigations are our strength.

The media living with the money of political parties is interesting, first of all, as a platform that constitutes the news from the point of view of that party.

For the audience to say, I will go to the page of this or that media outlet to see how it interprets what happened. Or, let me see if they consider the news I know to be true or not.

The role of clarifiers and inspectors is growing in the information environment.

After all, the term “mass media” is irreversibly outdated, as we have all inadvertently found ourselves in the media environment and it is necessary to start thinking about professional media from there.

Being a tool in a total information environment is nothing. You have to play by the rules of the environment.

For example, knowing full well that alarming news is the most prevalent, the media outlet (which does not want to be the next republisher of that news) can play the role of checker and confirmer in the information market. Offer that the audience not be informed by them, but that they will clarify the information that is circulating around them.

The media does not manage to inform first (it is meaningless, energy-consuming and time-consuming work), but it can be a certain checking and clarifying platform.

Traditional journalism, which was built on the chain “the journalist went, saw, came, told” has died. Everyone sees and tells without exception. And if we are accustomed to living in an environment full of ups and downs, misinformation and even obvious lies, it does not mean that we do not need clarifying guidelines. On the contrary, they are very much needed.

We want platforms that will test and validate what we hear and read on our behalf, which we will trust by delegating to do that work.

Just as we apply to a lawyer when drafting a document, so too we can turn to trusted media outlets if we need to find out the truth about a piece of news.

After all, the weight and prestige of the media is now conditioned by the search for that authenticity.

If many Armenian media outlets can say that they promise everyone equally and ensure versatility by exerting their efforts, it will simply be an infantile statement. Authority in a total information environment cannot be polyphony (there are so many voices in the environment that one can go crazy). On the contrary, the media outlet that thinks about prestige creates a priority of voices.

It makes sure that its guests do not read garbage, dirt and useless emotional manipulative texts.

It ratifies only the important and is not in a hurry to publish anything unverified and unchecked, even if it brings views. In short, it gives the right to a voice to the one who it deems important.

And again we can remember that in the information environment alarm and excitement are widely consumed and spread. In addition, the algorithm of social networks also stimulates the creation of alarming and polarized opinions.

And it deprives the newsrooms of the function of pluralism. For example, how can one be a mere transmitter and republisher of two opinions when it comes to war or oppression? Or any kind of violence.

The facts and the validation of those facts are the product that the audience needs. And how the media outlet works with the facts is the editorial policy. And the media, a political factor.

Nune Hakhverdyan

The views expressed in the column are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the views of Media.am.

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