Too much criticism and false fairness has become too big a problem in the media, writes Germany Saarikoski in his column.
In recent weeks the debate on Prime Minister Sanna Marin’s (sd) meals was split in two according to whether or not the commentator liked Marin. Opponents of the prime minister thought the case was new evidence of the prime minister’s inability, supporters thought it was a lot of noise from scratch or a right-wing election operation.
Really, the thing was the most traditional journalism. It was triggered by the fact that the journalist of Iltalehti went through the receipt traffic of the ministers. Receipts are generally public, as it should be, after all, it is public money. When a reporter came across interesting information, he started digging. There is nothing strange about that. Something a little strange, on the other hand, was that such inquiries seemed a surprise to the future Prime Minister’s Office and Prime Minister.
According to its website, the task of the Prime Minister’s Office is to “support the activities and decision-making of the Prime Minister and the Government”. I guess the least you can expect from the Chancellery is that it will not get the Prime Minister in trouble. However, it did.
In the case of Marin, it is humanly understandable that he believed in the instructions of the officials. On the other hand, some alarm bell should ring if a person realizes that he is buying his cereal with public money.
Such during turmoil, the media is always in the spotlight. Some blame the media for the fact that the popularity of governments is now coming to an end so quickly. It doesn’t seem plausible, as the media’s busiest years are far behind.
In recent years, party leaders submitted to Leif Salmén’s third-degree interrogations, but now it is complained that if Sanna Savikko raises her eyebrows too suspiciously in Yle’s election exam. Too much criticism and false fairness has become too big a problem in the media.
The oxidation of governments is a real problem, but it is not due to the media but to politics and the people. Finland could not afford half the people to hope for government failure all the time, but we are in that spiral.
With the timing, Iltalehti could even save the prime minister from a more unpleasant situation, because otherwise Marin would most obviously have left the meal benefit unmentioned in his tax return.
I’m sorry at reception, it was easy to identify known psychological defense mechanisms such as reinforcement bias, motivated reasoning, and information silence.
Confirmation skew means that a person relies on information that supports his or her previous perceptions. The matter can be tested by considering whether one would have thought about it in the same way if the (middle) family of the previous Prime Minister Juha Sipilä had sat at the breakfast table.
In motivated reasoning, things are interpreted as desired. A ten euro breakfast fee sounds different than a 15,000 euro benefit.
Information silo is a channel where you do not accidentally come across unpleasant things. Many shut down the media if the media tells things they don’t want to hear.
When things are really messed up, can’t but repeat the obvious, author George Orwell said. Let’s try.
In the meal trial, journalists did their job, sometimes called the power watchdog task.
Of course, journalists have their own opinions, of course the sources are trying to influence the journalists and surely some media are eating from the hand of the government and others are biting it. In the big picture, though, these things don’t matter much.
There are so many journalists and media that if one doesn’t grab a news tip, the other will grab. If one makes a mistake, the other corrects. If one brakes, the other presses the throttle. And if the carburetor drives out of the way, others call on a team of scientists to resent the media uproar.
So the truth about things slowly takes shape, through excesses and undertreatments. It may not always be beautiful, but as they say about democracy: nothing better has been invented.
The author is the supervisor of HS’s editorial office.