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Journalism In The Future: an article by: GF Willmetts.

May 30, 2021 | By | Reply More

Has anyone wondered why so few Science Fiction realities don’t have any news media facilities? Granted it would be difficult with dictatorships without getting the literal chop but you would have to wonder why it isn’t utilised by the oppressed to get their message across more effectively and cheaper than a war.

All right, there is likely to be some sameness about having journalist commentary all the time but think of how many times its been done. Off the top of my head, I can only think of nine occasions in films. ‘The Day The Earth Caught Fire’ (1961) was done from a newspaper journalist’s perspective reporting events although we don’t really see the results of that. With ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ (1968), it is used for a BBC journalist to talk to the Discovery crew and an extrapolation of information for the viewer. Two films, ‘Future World’ (1976) and ‘Capricorn One’ (1978) had journalists looking at cover-ups.

With the original V’ (1984-1985), the photo-journalist perspective of the Visitors was the means to give knowledge to the world what was under the skin in an easier way than someone from a different career option which was oddly forgotten in the re-make. ‘Robocop’ (1987) interplays with television but then again, you’d buy that for a dollar. On TV, ‘Babylon 5’ (1993-1998), there were several occasions with the most telling of a corrupt government manipulating media reports to put them in a bad light.

At a push, one could also include the first ‘Starship Troopers’ (1997) film, but largely for the advertising propaganda to get young adults to join up in the military voluntarily despite the fact enlistment is obligatory than actual news but I’m stretching things with that example. ‘Farscape’ (1999-2003) briefly touches on it when the Moya crew arrive on Earth and become a media sensation with variable results. The ‘Watchmen’ (2009) film briefly touches on it but not nearly as much as the graphic novel.

I’m hoping there are more out there, especially in written Science Fiction but none that spring to mind. It’s almost as if there are no journalists in any media in most future realities, let alone those in a galaxy far, far away. Granted, a dictator regime isn’t likely to tolerate a free press but you would have thought a rebellion would have seen the media a means to broadcast their point of view and certainly cheaper than  going to war and easier to get support.

Journalism In The Future: an article by: GF Willmetts.

That news-feed is doing it’s part!

Of course, it would change the perspective of a film when its viewers want to see battles but it does present a view that there is no free press in the future and you have to ask yourself is that likely to happen and how are people going to find out what is going on? Are we going to change that much or writers suddenly going to forget something close to their own profession?

Of course, some stories based around rebellion or covert activity is never going to get in any form of the press but you do have to wonder how news is passed around. Although I doubt newspapers will still exist in the future and digital is likely to be the option, you do have to wonder why it isn’t exploited? It isn’t as though journalists don’t get wind of a story even in a suppressed regime even if they change the story to match any dictatorial demands.

Think of the ‘Star Wars’ universe and considering the number of planets belonging to the Empire, how could news be suppressed completely across all of them. I mean, how can you do trade if there is no advertising medium? If it isn’t, then just how could so many billions of people unquestionably continue with their lives as if no rebellion was taking place? There is a logic that as long as your ordinary lives aren’t interfered with and you pay your taxes, you can lead an ordinary lives. It only becomes implausible when there’s nary a sign of any news medium.

Are we taking it for granted that any human-based society isn’t likely to have any news medium so should have one simply because we have one. If you want to tell a population information quickly then a communication medium is essential. The evolution of news expression on our planet was from newspapers to film and television and now to digital through your computer system. As the latter continues, people are getting used to seeing selective news and even limiting what they see and liking it free. This limits the types of journalism conducted, including investigative journalism which does take a lot longer to bring the pieces together.

The only reason the likes of the Internet is increasing in popularity over newspapers and sometime regular TV news programmes and documentaries is because of its speed rather than accuracy which is clearly not given as many rules as the previous two mediums to adhere to.

The thing with newspapers is you are exposed to a lot of news items and not always the ones you would see on TV or digital that some AI deems important, let alone in any depth. ‘Sound-bytes’ of a few paragraphs are designed for short attention spans and although they get straight to the point, they miss out on interviewing people in depth so you can examine the evidence. The only advantage of digital news is being able to show film clips but even they can be edited to only showing what the news team wants to show you and not aware of any hidden agendas.

Name any journalist you regularly read news items from on-line. I doubt if you even notice who they are written by. Just as aspect to remember in any futuristic journalist fictional story. The who writes might no longer matter.

Even so, local news can quickly become international these days through a variety of mediums, often propagated by ordinary people where it passes geometrically. Oddly, the nature of passing such news is often the link and no one is adding any other editorial content so much of it is still the source material and maybe a comment suggesting people look at it.

In many respects, this is actually destroying normal journalism. One only has to look at the drop in newspapers sales and their increased prices to know they are getting in serious trouble from lack of sales and less advertising. This also reduces the number of viewpoints, even those who are biased, and potentially destroy a profession that is looking at what is really going on. A scandal, as we have seen recently, will get coverage but I bet politicians wished it had stayed hidden.

Our future with scandal coverage non-existent would leave world leaders able to do anything without scrutiny or people caring and we are already seeing the signs of this in today’s society and the Internet barely 30 years old. To lose media coverage in any form is a loss to all of us. I’m going into our current history here because maybe this is what SF has inadvertently done and showed that there is no journalism in the future.

One would hope there is a resurgence at some point. The mess with fake news in the long term is likely to have people disbelieving any news source and we are all likely to be living in micro-universes not knowing what is going on. For some countries under dictatorship, this will no doubt serve them well but it also removes the possibility of freedom of speech because no one will be paying attention to it.

Think of the unaccountability of governments to the people and no one measuring if they are fulfilling their election pledges. We currently have many examples of that in the UK. Just because we are told something is being done, doesn’t mean it’s being carried out. We just assume everyone is as honest as we see ourselves. Journalism does have its place in our diverse societies across the world. People who want to hide questionable misdemeanours will probably love it but is it right?

For those of you writing SF in all its forms, always consider the media aspect in your realities. Things don’t always keep away from the public and even when they do, acknowledge how and why might be a way to remind people media news doesn’t die. Big Brother might be watching but a journalistic population would also be questioning.

© GF Willmetts 2021

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About the Author ()

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’ If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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