The need for quick and easy communication coupled with technological advancements and strong government support has seen the mass media evolve into the powerful source of information it currently is. Does this powerful source help create a truly informed world? My answer would be no.
What information is provided to us through magazines, books, newspapers, the Internet or any other form of media is only as reliable as their authors and editors. It is this group of people who actually decide what information is passed on to the general public. Therefore the control of the mass media has been largely handed over to this group of people. These results in some facts being over-emphasized and others distorted before reaching the people of the world. This could lead to false information bring passed on, thus keeping the public wrongly informed. An example of this would be a newspaper article in the Straits Times which highlighted an author and an editor who had been caught publishing false information in a magazine.
Another group of people who prohibit the passing of true information is the government of the various countries. Any information that does not tally with the government’s policies, beliefs and ideologies is censored off local newspapers, television shows and radio shows. This is currently happening in Malaysia where news channels like CNN are not broadcast live and are delayed for two to three days which are used to censor news which do not agree with Malaysian beliefs. This results in the general population receiving outdated news and false information. This problem though has been reduced since the arrival of the Internet, because it is not possible for a government to exercise control on information accessible from anywhere in the world.
If we were to concentrate on a highly developed country such as America, then it is possible to say that most of the people have access to the various forms of mass media, resulting in their being quite well-informed. But what about those countries which are still going through the development process? How informed would an African tribe be on the war on Iraq or the SARS problem that many countries suffered? Obviously they will know little about them. This is because the information is not accessible to these groups of people. The modern mass media would succeed in creating a truly informed world only when anyone who wishes to learn about something, is able to do it without any problem. Although the media is inching towards this by increasing accessibility to the various forms of the mass media, it has to go a long way more to create an informed population in rural areas.
So much information without anyone to read it is as good as it not being there. This is the situation in many parts of world where the wealth of information is not being fully utilized by the people. Although it is important on the part of general public to learn to use the vast information available, the mass media also have to create that interest in people that will lead them to the information. A flower achieves its purpose using its nectar to attract the bees. Likewise, the mass media have to come up with some nectar of their own to make sure its information is utilized in creating a truly informed general population. Although most of the television shows are aimed at achieving this, the information they provide is minimal compared to books, newspapers and the Internet which unfortunately do not attract many in the population.
Although the modern mass media have failed to achieve a fully-informed world, one cannot believe the fact that over the years, the mass media have improved by leaps and bounds to reach many more people with much more valid information. Although some of the information is untrue, the number of sources available to retrieve that information has made it easier for the population to compare sources and acquire the correct information. Therefore it is also important that the public be selective and practice censorship to maximally utilize the ocean of information that the modern mass media currently afford.
The mass media, therefore, have seen limited success in creating a truly informed world. Currently the people working in the mass media see their job as more of a chance to earn money and make a living rather than a way to pass on valuable information to the public. This situation has to be rectified if more of true information is to be passed on. The rural population also has to gain access and this can only be possible if the various forms of mass media are prepared to work together with the governments of the developing countries to help change the fortune of those poor people. These changes together with the massive technical advancements in progress would mean that a truly informed world is not very far away.