The integrity of mass communication lately is very questionable. To many people, this is not news. But to others, this lack might be something they’ve not considered.
Just because a person is on teevee, radio, or other mass media outlet doesn’t mean he or she is an authority. Just because he or she says something in the mass media doesn’t make it true, even if you agree with it. Perhaps, especially if you agree with the person or information, is the full truth not being told.
“Do not tell untruthful things for the sake of personal interest or to impress people. Do not utter words that cause division and hatred. Do not spread news that you do not know to be certain. Do not criticise or condemn things of which you are not sure. Always speak truthfully and constructively. Have the courage to speak out about situations of injustice, even when doing so may threaten your own safety.”–Thich Nhat Hanh
The 24 hour news cycle is especially fertile ground for unskillful communication. “Hard” news and feature stories must be pumped out to fill up airtime. Commentators abound with opinionated shows galore. Most of these programs find popularity among audiences looking to vindicate and to validate their own views.
Broadcasters in the United States, are licensed to serve the public interest. The past several years, has shown that many only pay minimal lip service to public service. While nobody can force broadcasters to follow the precepts of skillful speech as outlined by Thich Nhat Hanh, I think the best interests of broadcasters and the public would be well served by using his advice as a guideline.
During my years in broadcasting, one complaint was heard very frequently from the listening audience. That is that the audience is tired of hearing so much bad news and slanderous and defamatory talk on the airwaves. As a public service director, I took this complaint to heart. Whatever was in my direct authority, I used Thich Nhat Hanh’s advice. I found it to be a very good rule of thumb when making decisions about what got aired and what did not regarding my department. I hoped that my actions at our small stations would make a positive difference in our corner of the world.
It is my view that if managements at all mass media outlets, from ownership, program directors, to programmers and producers, take mindful communication to heart, then the public, at large, will be better served. The Federal Communications Commission will certainly have an easier job if integrity and ethical communications become the rule, rather than the exception.
I agree with my former listeners that there is far and away too much bad news and slanderous, divisive communication being spread around these days. This is especially true than ever before in history. I don’t particularly think there is a need for more regulations regarding skillful communications. There are many on the books already that simply need to be enforced.
Better yet, sometimes it’s wise to just switch off the mass media for awhile. We sometimes need to have some quiet time to contemplate what is true, what is harmful and whether we even need to consume what is distributed for mass consumption at all.
The Blue Jay of Happiness notes that when we write or speak, we can help create a world of joy and happiness or a world of divisiveness and hell. It’s up to us.