'Good old days'

İBRAHIM ALTAY
ISTANBUL
Published
Illustration by Jamilia
Illustration by Jamilia

While many journalists feel nostalgic about their past experiences and the glory they experienced in the sector, it is time to remove the rose-tinted glasses and realize that, in the past few decades, journalism was sometimes used as a weapon to promote personal interests rather than the public good

Reminiscing about the past decades is a favorite past time for just about anyone, especially as we age. I am sure that many of you have experienced one of those "back in my day" talks with elderly people at one point in your lives. It could have been with a grandparent or a senior co-worker telling you of how things were much better back in their days and how times are changing for the worse.

Our parents say it to us just as their parents said it to them and this is something that transcends the generations, as each one believes their generation was the best.

Yearning for the good old days is not just about our daily lives, political structure or the economy. This nostalgic desire applies to both the workplace and various sectors as well. For example, many workers who are nearing the retirement age tend to complain that their profession is going downhill, blaming it on either new-generation workers or new technologies. Naturally, journalists experience this too, as we enjoy putting on our rose-tinted glasses when we are feeling nostalgic.

It is easy to dismiss the new while clinging to the old. Although change is an absolute factor in our lives, it is something many of us become wary of, over the course of our lives. However, it is time to take an objective look at the good old days, and whether they were truly good or simply more convenient. In the very least, when it comes to journalism and the world of media, we need to take a closer look at the old days and what they were. So, let us do exactly that, right from the ones that reminisce about them too.

From time to time, journalists of the modern era encounter their "senior" counterparts, in various settings. As the conversation becomes more relaxed and the topics of current events have been exhausted, older journalists sometimes turn the subject towards what it was like back in their times and how their generations were better than those of modern times.

We start to swim in a sea of memories as anecdotes and stories begin coming out of the woodwork one by one. However, if you listen closely, it becomes clear that this sea of information is far from the calm and pleasant one that they cling too in their memories, but rather it is a stormy and treacherous one that strays into downright malicious content at times. Our senior counterparts brush away the tales about their "mischievousness" with great pride, dismissing the way that they used the power of the press to cut people down to size or finish their careers or, how they managed to bring some of societies' most powerful and influential figures right to their doorstep using the power of their profession.

As time goes by, these senior journalists try to up one another with their tales of mischief and all the while we start to realize that they are not even cognizant of the fact that what they yearn for is wrong. Or, if they are aware, they do not care. And that is perhaps the saddest part.

If you are somewhat holding onto the ray of hope that the actions described in these tales have at least some semblance of "public good" as an explanation, don't. Because as the night goes, you realize that they stem from personal interests, wounded prides, sense of self-importance and so forth.

Then all these tales and talks reach to the part where they start to bemoan about the current shortcomings and problems in the today's media saying, "It was better in our days," leaving you speechless of the sheer contradictory nature of the statement.

Providing an alternative

The status of conventional or mainstream media in modern times is far from the stable and powerful presence it possessed a decade ago. We wrote about the whys, results and now whats in numerous articles in the past. We are not the only ones to do so. Not to mention that, it is not some profound insight that only exists in the corners of newspapers, but something that can be seen and realized in the daily lives of almost everyone.

While the downs of this waning influence are often discussed, its ups make for a subject that is seldom discussed by the journalists. It is easy to criticize social media for causing what seems to be a decline in the mainstream media. Saddling problems such as fake news, unconfirmed reports, hoaxes and lack of credibility to social media while portraying the conventional media as the antithesis of them, seems to have become the common kneejerk reaction. However, there are several important factors to consider.The very first one is that the conventional media does not exactly have a shining record. Journalistic principles, ethics and proper codes of conduct are concepts that are relatively new; as far as the practice of journalism is concerned, even though they were present theoretically. Using journalism and the power of the media as a weapon to promote specific agendas which range from stroking personal egos to assisting private interest groups were not only commonplace but also quite visible in the media.

With that in mind, we can even say that alternative news sources such as the internet - and social media in particular - provided just that: An alternative. And what does alternative mean? Competition. Competition that stems from alternative sources for information in the public, providing the wakeup call that was necessary for realizing that the conventional media, while still influential, was not the powerhouse that cane shapes the public perception without a pushback or contradiction from different sources.

As the advantage as huge as the speed of the news falls squarely to the confines of the social media since it has the potential to report at the ground zero of an event while it is still happening due to ability of making reporters out of its users, conventional media needed to find other avenues to compete in. Especially considering that social media has also taken the advantage of being a monopoly from mainstream media.

Different priorities

These other avenues can be summed in a single word: Credibility. The accountability of conventional media outlets, the confirmative and professional structure of these entities, and journalistic professionalism that allow for modern-day competition in this sector are the tools which allow it to successfully win in today's world, where rapid changes have become commonplace. Credibility is the one common denominator of successful newspapers that retain their reader base along with their sphere of influence.

On the other hand, glorifying the old days can be just as damaging as dismissing them outright. Promoting change for change's sake while discarding the lessons and accomplishments of the past is not the point of this article and it should not be the way to move forward, either.

However, it is important to accept that media is sometimes used as a weapon of mass influence at the whims of interest groups and journalists with an axe to grind or a benefit to gain. Although the factor of competition is necessary for us to realize the impact our actions have on the public good rather than private interest, we are still in danger of falling into old habits at present. Especially considering that many journalists still have the mentality where old days were considered good.

With that in mind, even if we put all ethical considerations aside, the practical perspective tells us that regressing in a manner that causes the mainstream media to revert back to its old methods may just very well be the final nail in the coffin.

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