Published On: Mon, Sep 4th, 2017

True or false?

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People are mature enough to assess whether something is true or not. That statement comes from a recent column written by Volkskrant contributor Sheila Sitalsing. It made us wonder: is this a true or a false, or rather incorrect statement?

We’re living in a time where mainstream media – foremost the printed press – is taking a lot of flak from social media. While circulation is going down worldwide, more and more people are getting their news fix from social media. What’s worse: many social media users live in a bubble: they only read what they are interested in, or they join groups that believe in the same stuff they do.

St. Maarten is blessed – if my atheist friends want to forgive me for using this expression – with two newspapers, so readers get their information from two different angles. Three or four newspapers would even be better of course, but given the scale of our community, that’s economically not a viable option. We should be happy with what we have right now.

Are these two newspapers doing a good job? We leave that judgment to our readers but from a more general point of view we feel free to say that the print media are doing a more than decent job. Sure, we make mistakes, but doesn’t everybody?

The thing is: citizens have access to two news sources that are independent from each other. Newspapers don’t make deals with each other about what they are going to write.

But now this: are our readers mature enough to assess what is true and what is not true? That’s a tricky question and it’s impossible to answer because not all readers are the same. Some will swallow anything we write, while others remain highly critical.

We appreciate those critical readers because they keep us alert and on the ball.

Unfortunately, there are also interrupters in the media field – the blogs and social media. That’s where you will at times read stuff that makes your jaw drop. You also see notorious blogs where the writers have no clue about journalism and happily mix their own questionable opinion with gossip and the facts as they see them. It’s a volatile mix that is destined to distort reality.

We wouldn’t like to feel the people who actually believe all that crap is actually true. At least, the impression we get from reactions to blogs is that quite some people are prepared to swallow their content lock stock and barrel.

This remands us of readers of the yellow press – the celebrity magazines. “I know it is not true what I am reading, but it does not matter to me,’ is the astonishing statement we once had to endure. Really.

And that’s why we have so much trouble with Ms. Sitalsings’ observation that people are mature enough to assess what is true and what is not true.

We concede that her statement is true for some people, but it certainly does not apply to all people, and certainly not to people who do not even care whether something they read is true or false.