The fourth estate

Documentary journalism may be the truest form of media.

ItâÄôs obvious weâÄôre not living in the age of our parents. WeâÄôre not even living in the age of our older siblings. Some call our era the misinformation age, and the alarming part is that itâÄôs partly true. I would assume few of us watch the six oâÄôclock news while we make dinner in the kitchen, and aside from this free paper and its crossword/Sudoku incentive, few of us hold a periodical in our hands on a daily basis. We get our news online: CNNâÄôs video clips, the Huffington Post and the like. We stream RSS feeds to our iPhones and download MPR or talk radio on the way to class. KTLK might tote its âÄúnews on demand,âÄù but rarely does news demand anything from us anymore. Instead we demand the news, wherever and in a form thatâÄôs most convenient. But whether it be a regurgitated hype of Miss CaliforniaâÄôs new ad campaign or the ads featuring President Barack ObamaâÄôs ideas of clean coal and hybrid technology, our news is recycled and prepackaged and not the kind of reuse thatâÄôs good for our social environment. In grade school, you were most likely taught the system of checks and balances in government: The executive, legislative and judicial branches each check the other branch. On top of that, the media was supposed to have been a watchdog system for the government. But as we continue to see advertisements in which our president advocates âÄúClean Coal Technology,âÄù a term engineered on Madison Avenue for political purposes, the system seems more like a cycle than a circuit of supervision. I realize IâÄôm not saying the âÄúcorrupt mediaâÄù is a new concept. But itâÄôs easy to get lost âÄî especially when the content of the mainstream media sells itself as truth. But it is driven by a profit business model that prints and tapes whatever gains viewers. The mediaâÄôs job is to keep things simple and the stories moving rather than trust its viewers and readers to engage the content in a real way and ultimately question its truth. The idea is cynical and assumes weâÄôre not smart enough to know when weâÄôre being spoon-fed. Consequently, weâÄôre rarely presented with well rounded stories that examine the multiple truths that inevitably exist in each individual account of an event. To combat this, weâÄôve lately seen a backlash by bloggers and the like who attempt to complicate the simplistic stories presented to us. But even bloggers and citizen journalists have been usurped by big name media. I-reporters are advocated on CNN and journalists in a range from the national sector to the local weatherman now hold blogs sponsored on company websites. So how do you uncover whatâÄôs real, what isnâÄôt, or even another version of the truth than is presented to us by government, and its increasing role in media? Keep screaming into the abyss as the YouTube generation with our video journals? Act like Perez Hilton and run our mouths when we donâÄôt get the answers we want? Those screaming loudest usually are just making noise. Maybe we should engage our own reporting, search the BBC or Al-Jazeera, canâÄôt we all perform acts of journalism? A widely unknown series in its second season on the Independent film channel might offer us some hope. The Media Project is a documentary series that has been described as a âÄúmedia showâÄù for the YouTube generation, and delves into the reasons why news is covered in the manner it is. Hosted by award winning journalist and reporter Gideon Yago (yep, an MTV alumnus), the series does real reporting. The website features interviews with individuals at the scene in Iraq as former President George W. Bush was cursed with an airborne shoe; it promises to examine the truth behind âÄúcleanâÄù coal and take a look at the White House Press Corp âÄî what itâÄôs getting right and where President ObamaâÄôs team has fallen overboard. Still, it is ironic that YagoâÄôs best interview concerning the show comes from CNN last week. In it, he said, âÄúOur point of view is that journalism is a craft; it is not a science, and if you can measure it by how well people can understand the world around them and how much good information youâÄôre giving them âĦ do you need to rely on traditional forms to do that?âÄù The show seems a challenge, and breath of fresh air to the formulaic five oâÄôclock news. WeâÄôre finally not simply being told a lot of the what, but rather, the why. Though in itself it remains another version of media, the documentary form makes me hopeful. Kelsey Kudak welcomes comments at [email protected]