Fake news, misinformation, de-platforming, canceling and other terms are now part of everyday conversations in our country. Along with these terms and parts of these conversations are many questions and statements. When did fake news start? How can we let people get away with misinformation? Who deserves to have a voice if they’re spreading fake news or misinformation? Don’t you think that person should be taken off social media so they can’t spread misinformation?
This column isn’t about taking sides. It’s not about telling you what or how to think. I’ll leave that for other writers and news producers. No, what this column is – is what many may consider boring and a whole bunch of information nobody cares about. Having said that, I’m still going to write the column anyways, because the information that I’ve gathered for this column is information I haven’t seen anywhere else. The reason I’ve been looking for this information, personally, is the number of people over my 30-year career who have asked questions about the news, because they haven’t found that information either within its pages or on its screens.
As a foundation for this column, you need a little more background on me as a writer. I’m a country boy from North Dakota who grew up loving to hunt and fish. When I left home, I couldn’t hook up a home stereo system and found myself getting degrees in broadcasting and Bible. While I was in college, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to learn from some of the best news minds in the United States. I don’t say this based on opinion but on all of the awards these men and women in various news organizations were presented with.
Personally, I’ve never been a fan of news as a career, because it’s too volatile. When I say this, I’m not talking about the contents of the news, just the industry. People in news can work excruciating, long hours on a story only to have it dropped because of something a news director deemed more important at the time. Also, the news needs to be as immediate as possible, which leads itself to lower production standards and cutting corners for the necessity of speed.
Over my career I’ve worked with local and national news organizations as part of my job in live event and broadcast work. I joke about the fact that the only person I don’t have on my résumé is working with a President. But it’s true, this country kid from North Dakota has some interesting stories. So why am I writing a column titled Discernment 101?
For starters, over the past couple of years in my own conversations, I was surprised at how few people understood how the media operates and why they do what they do. I’m speaking in the academic sense not about personal motivation. To be fair, ask yourself this question, what are the things that your friends and neighbors don’t understand about the industry you’re in; those areas where they have misconceptions about what you do and how it’s done.
The next reason for writing this column is based on personal observation. I was at the airport one day back in 2006 talking with a reporter from a local newspaper who asked how I was doing after being injured in the wildfire in 2005. I shared with him how my broken leg was causing me the most issues as I pointed to my right leg. Shocked he asked, “Didn’t you break your left leg?” Sarcastically, I responded “only in your newspaper.” That week in his paper I had a broken right leg and, in every story, afterwards I had a broken left leg again. This is why I stayed away from working for the news because I selfishly said, “I’m too honest to be a news reporter.”
The last reason for this column has to do with the reason a dyslexic kid from rural North Dakota decided to write for the The Dakotan in the first place. I’ve stayed away from working in news with one exception over my career. In 2011 I donated a couple of weeks to help out KX News in Minot during the flooding. It was the first time I saw reporters and people in the news making the same sacrifices that we in emergency response make every day. This experience cracked the door open on the idea of me working in news, but that’s all the further it went for many years.
This past November I was hired by a group of people in North Dakota as a production company to provide sound and video for an event at the state capital. As with all of my clients, my responsibility is to provide them with clean, audible sound and clear, visible video so their audience can hear and see their message. As a production company, my job is to not take sides or get deeply entrenched in a cause, but simply help them tell their story. What I witnessed that day was heartbreaking not because of what the audience did or what my client did, but what I watched the news and media do during and after the event that day. I was also saddened to witness the reactions and actions of citizens of North Dakota based on the information the media and news disseminated during and following the event.
You can write me off as being old school, but over 40 years ago as a country boy from North Dakota, I took an oath to do my best to do my duty to God and country and to help other people at all times. It was my adherence to this oath that led to me getting burnt in 2005. It’s the same oath that led me to the decision that I needed to start working in news as a citizen journalist and is the main reason I’m writing this column.
Discernment 101 is a series of articles that will cover the history, ethics, conditions, and current atmosphere of the media in our culture, along with the stories in history of people in the news industry. This column is about learning how others gather and disseminate the information that we use to make decisions. I’m writing this column in search of the answers to the questions that I’m asking and the questions others have asked me over the last couple of years. So, if you have questions, send them in and we can look for the answers together.
Geremy Olson grew up in the outdoors. After being burned as a volunteer firefighter, he had to figure out how to teach outdoor skills to his children from a wheelchair while learning to walk. Today he is an inspirational speaker, author, FCA Outdoors ND director, tournament director, video producer, wildfire consultant, and proud father of the owners of Missouri Secrets Tackle & Secrets to Fishing.