BLOG: The mainstream media is lying to you!

ALAN FELDBERG: Luckily we’re a trade magazine so this doesn’t apply to us, but this sort of provocative headline is the sort of thing that’s getting harder and harder to avoid.

It used to be that sensationalism and clickbait applied only to a certain kind of media. Now however, the temptation to turn news reporting into a platform to express an opinion appears impossible for even the most respected publications to ignore.

Coverage of Toyota’s reaction to Theresa May’s Brexit speech perfectly highlighted the fact that, these days, the news is different according to who is reporting it.

Here are two headlines from the same press conference:

Nissan, Toyota back UK plants despite May’s Brexit plan

and

Toyota examining ‘how to survive’ in post-Brexit Britain

So which is it? Either it’s good news for the UK automotive industry, or it’s not. The stories were published online within about an hour of each other, following an interview with Toyota chairman Takeshi Uchiyamda at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. I’ve managed to find excerpts of what he said but, having not been there myself to hear the entire thing, I’m really none the wiser. I’d suggest that my personal views will inform which headline I believe, as will yours.

According to The Financial Times, he said, ‘We have seen the direction of the prime minister of UK, [so] we are now going to consider, together with the suppliers, how our company can survive.’

According to Japan Times, he said, ‘We can survive this. In every country in the world, we don’t tend to close or move factories when things like this happen and it will be the same in the UK.’

Perhaps he said both. The story in The Financial Times does end with the following clarification, though: This article has been updated to reflect the fact that Mr Uchiyamada was not seeking reassurances from the British government similar to the ones that Nissan had received.

Make of that what you will.

This is the era of post-truth and cherry picking the parts that fit our own arguments. But amidst this chaos there is a critical need to know there are still a few bastions that give us the facts and trust us to draw our own conclusions instead of trying to spoon-feed us theirs.

That need isn’t being met. In the last few days even the BBC has been found guilty of breaching its own accuracy and impartiality rules.

Mainstream media has been getting a kicking from social media for years now. Credibility in the readers’ eyes should be its trump card. Without that, it really is just writing itself into irrelevance.