How is it that we have media stories denying that COVID exists, arguing that climate change is a myth, and that vaccines are a conspiracy between big Pharma and health care workers? These are some of the BIG lies often cynically fuelled  to manipulate increasingly fragmented and disaffected groups for political and corporate interests.

Not that this is new. Truth and integrity in the media has always been a central concern for a civilised society. The media both shapes and is shaped by the society it inhabits. It would be a complete myth to argue that these were not issues for the ‘old media’ dominated by Packer, Murdoch and Fairfax.

But the digital explosion and the increasing dominance of social media companies like Facebook and Google have changed the landscape. Today news increasingly comes online through social media feeds.  Advertising, the life blood that pays for news and free content has followed.

The ‘rivers of gold’ and the money from the maddening 30 second electronic slots that paid for the major print and broadcast news dried up long ago. Most advertising has migrated to online platforms where pay per view and click dominate.

This is not all a bad thing.

It has led to a much greater diversity of news sources. Once you were stuck with the Age, the Herald Sun and the free to air electronics (including the ABC) for the State, national and international news, and the ABC and the local paper for the local news.

It is now much easier to get international news from reputable media groups. You can tailor the news to your tastes, find specialist media and follow particular interests – all from the comfort of your hand held device anywhere, anytime.

But the down side  is that diversification and aggregation have seen more localised news fall between the cracks. Small scale, local news services often run by the larger publishing houses are increasingly less commercially viable. Online and social media diversification has stolen their lunch. Consistent, reliable and balanced local reporting is harder to find.

What does all this mean for the future? Will we increasingly tailor news and information to suit ourselves, occasionally with truly bizarre results, but more often risking insular ignorance and sometimes outright intolerance of alternative views? Will local news become the gossip you glean from local social media?

The Wombat Post is very pleased to have best selling author and speech writer Don Watson address these issues at its AGM, Sunday March 20 at the Senior Citizen’s Centre in Daylesford. Don was Paul Keating’s speech writer and biographer. He has written entertainingly and extensively on the corruption of language. In addition to books and essays he writes films and gives occasional talks on writing and language.

Tickets are free but running out. Go to trybooking to get one.