OPINION

Mid-Week Musings || You need the news, not fractured fairy tales

A king summonsed his knights and commanded them: "Go out to all my kingdom and, since neither internet, television, nor even newspapers have been invented yet, interview all my subjects and gather the entire history, facts and wisdom of the kingdom."

The knights interviewed the millions of people and after 10 years presented the king with a collection of knowledge the size of an encyclopedia.

The king decreed, "Too big! Summarise it!".

The knights come back after 10 more years with a book the size of the Bible.

Again, the king decrees, "Too big! Summarise it!"

So, after 10 more years, the knights come back with a short chapter.

But again, the king decrees, "Too big! Summarise it!"

The knights spend another 10 years summarising it all down to a page.

But the king decrees yet again: "Too big! Summarise it!"

The knights appeal to the king, "Sire, this is the entire history, facts and wisdom of millions of people over thousands of years!"

The king passionately commands, "Summarise it all down to one sentence!"

It took the knights 10 more years, but finally they summarised the entire history, facts and wisdom of the millions of people, after thousands of years, down into one sentence, and finally the king was pleased.

And the sentence was this: "There is no such thing as a free lunch."

Perhaps you haven't heard much about the recent report produced by the Australian Local Government Association "Population, Productivity and Purchasing Power", that published new findings on the massive decrease in the availability of local news and information.

I guess news about the news is ironically not news, and yet, it should be.

It's estimated around 3000 journalists have lost their jobs over the past five years, with print media the most affected.

The report attributed the decline to the collapse of advertising-supported business models and the rise of social media news platforms.

You will not find a country in the world that is free that does not also have a free media, and you will not find a country in the world that is corrupt that does not also have a corrupt media.

Apart from the obvious agony and fear caused by journalists' loss of livelihood, there are a spate of not-so-obvious dangers that are being created in this apocalypse.

For example, the report revealed that now a large part of local government business goes entirely unscrutinised and unreported.

Do we want to live in a world where we are forced to blindly trust those in charge?

The report also warned that the decline in journalists is causing an absence of "real" news and creating a vacuum that is at risk of being filled by PR agencies and propaganda from lobbyists and vested interest groups.

The report's co-author Margaret Simons warned that people with the right skills and motivation can manipulate the media and the result of these trends will be more "fractured, vulnerable, isolated, poorly informed regional communities".

And then there is the problem of the "free lunch".

The tech giants and social media platforms share local content without ever paying for it, and although they have done none of the research or work that was required to produce the content, they have the audacity to attach their own advertising to it.

Of course, it's not stealing, because, first they display, "I have read and agree with all of the above terms and conditions" and then their terms and conditions are intentionally so long that they know you won't read them, and although you might be signing away a kidney, you click "Accept" so your relationship with these guys starts with a lie.

And if by chance the pursuit of local history, facts or wisdom leads to a lawsuit, who foots the bill? Local newspapers and media of course.

If you have views on locally produced media you can meet local journalists and editors. You cannot meet personally with social media platforms or tech giants easily.

You will not find a country in the world that is free that does not also have a free media, and you will not find a country in the world that is corrupt that does not also have a corrupt media.

To deny this causal relationship is worse than ignorance. Support your local media. The day may come when you might need to call on them to support you.