When the Civil War was raging in the former Yugoslavia, I was a teenager going to university, and having to listen to talk show hosts who thought it would be a good idea to round up Serb Canadians and stick them in camps the way they did to Japanese in the US during the Second World War. The irony of this suggestion was not lost on me.
I no longer felt safe, or as if I belonged.
But I wasn't going to take it passively.
So I did my research. I wrote letters. Sometimes I got phone calls, and sometimes I got letters, which I still have as well as copies of all of the ones I wrote.
They were always the same.
They stuck to a narrative, despite any evidence that contradicted that narrative, and never admitted there was any mistake.
They heard me. They just didn't listen.
To this day, even in an Internet age, the same dogged arrogance continues.
Journalism is a very specific discipline where you are first a student, and then the teacher. You learn the facts before you convey those facts. It is a very straightforward way of disseminating information.
But somewhere along the way, the barnacle known as narrative stuck to the ship and refused to get off.
You have narratives infect the relaying of facts, which is a very ineffective way of doing journalism. When you have a narrative, you become blinded. You don't see the glaring holes in that narrative. You commit the confirmation bias with reckless abandon.
You dismiss contradictory facts. You stop looking for facts and opt for opinions that say what you wish to prove.
When you target one or two isolated groups, most people don't notice. But when you keep doing it, more people get tired of being portrayed as evil when they are, and then they tune you out.
That is the reason why it seems as if Twitter is filled with offended people: yes, they were maligned and offended, and now they have an outlet to tell the world they won't have any of it anymore.
People get tired of being stereotyped. Right now, the media is on an anti-Russia kick, and their bigotry is obnoxious. Do not single out one group when the entire planet is filled with meddlers. The US meddled in the affairs of other countries -- with bombs and armies, for instance.
All in the name of democracy, of course, but people whose houses got turned into rubble as they lost family members did not sign up for that kind of liberation.
When I became a journalist, I did so with the express purpose of understanding how an entire profession could be so oblivious to nuance, facts, morals, sensitivity, empirical fact-gathering, and maturity. When you refuse to listen, you willfully set up a rig that favours your narrative over facts.
The new media collapsed because their bullying and temper tantrums weren't informing people. They were inciting people, painting them all with the same brush, and misinforming them.
For an alternative to journalism to have any value, it has to stop trying to create narratives. Forget the Us versus Them scenario. Try finding facts, and presenting them.
And learn how to listen, and consider that your initial hypothesis needs revising, or even scrapping. That's the trouble with narratives: you don't want your story to be proven false, and then you stop listening thinking that will prevent your lie from being exposed as such.
It cost journalism credibility which had been the lone asset. The next school of information dissemination has to take that into account or it's all for nothing, and the same hamster wheel will keep spinning into the ground.