There are numerous reasons why I felt compelled to study journalism, but my bottom line was, “Who can you trust?” Unless you feel like conducting some serious research, you are most likely relying on the honesty and integrity of the reporter, news channel, or radio host to bring you accurate information. With this said, and being interested in the American political system, I came across a Netflix Original Series called House of Cards. The storyline follows a U.S. representative from South Carolina, Francis Underwood, who was given the post of Secretary of State by the president elect. His post, however, is eventually handed to another congressman due to the fact that Underwood is “too valuable in congress.” Now bitter and belligerent towards, not only the president elect, but also the congressman who took his place, Underwood and his wife begin to play, blackmail, and connive their way into making sure those who did them wrong are destroyed.
Due to the fact that I had never seen this series before, I had to chuckle at my luck because there was quite the conglomeration of journalism-related scenes and references, but I was also slightly discomforted at the same time. In the series, Underwood hires a little-known reporter from the Washington Herald to publish secret agendas, leaked senate bills, and past information on certain individuals – many of which were gained through unethical actions such as interrogation, bribery, and blackmail. I happened to be watching the series with a friend of mine, so I turned to him and asked, “You really think they do this stuff to get their way up on Capitol Hill?” The question itself was rather useless because I already had an opinion, but his answer correlated with mine as we both said in unison, “It’s not hard to believe.”
As I took another sip of my drink, I began to ponder about how distorted and skewed some information could possibly be. There have been instances that I can recall where major authors have written inaccurate (and sometimes altogether counterfactual) pieces, yet no one bothered to cross-reference them or even acknowledge that they were wrong due to the writer’s esteemed standing. It is only logical to conclude that this could also happen in mass media at times. Just think; millions of viewers are fed fraudulent cases of horse manure and they take it in with a spoonful of sugar because, “they are the professionals,” or, “they wouldn’t lie to an entire nation.” Newsflash – it’s possible. Like sheep to the slaughter, we follows the leaders and take their words for granted, solely due to our ignorance and inept ability to think critically.
My point is not to stop watching the news or reading the paper, but, as Ronald Reagan once said, “Trust, but verify.” People don’t get thrown-off by the big things, but the little, almost inconsequential things. I believe it is my job – not only as a future journalist, but as a human – to give those I come in contact with a true and valid view of life.