Media Elite. It’s a phrase kicked around easily and rolls off the tongues of politicians. While this used to be reserved to back-room banter when an interview didn’t go so well, it’s now front and center in presidential debates as witnessed in South Carolina when it was time to bash the media and feed the crowd.

The crowd was wowed when candidate Newt Gingrich chided CNN specifically and bashed the press on a live broadcast. And by Sunday, he was absolutely ecstatic about that decision as he critiqued his performance on morning new shows – beaming that he has pushed ahead of other candidates and connected to “the public” by hitting the press.

When Kyle Communications conducts media training sessions across the country, we also see the vitriol about media increasing on the meter like a gadget measuring radioactive fallout. It is never surprising (having walked both sides of the communications aisle in newsrooms and in PR). But it is disturbing. There is a general loathing, mistrust and distrust of the media permeating this country that is neither good for media nor promising for politicians.

Traditional media are generally trained in ethics, reporting guidelines to verify accuracy and motives and laws such as libel – or so we hope if they have college degrees in journalism, telecommunications or broadcasting.

Social media posters are not trained in the same way. They are often just simply prolific, good at attracting a crowd with similar intent, purpose or interest. But many are also very good at knowing their topics much better than mainstream press – because they are steeped in it and become extremely knowledgeable.

Reporting lines continue to blur – pundits with strong opinions are now “reporting” news. Reporters are now expressing opinions in columns and also writing news articles at the same time simply confusing their audiences (not to mention what they tweet). Everyone in traditional media is now quoting, incorporating or using unverified twitter news and Facebook posts in mainstream news coverage (actor Rob Lowe tweeting about Peyton Manning, for example).

The lines have blurred so much as to be indistinguishable.

I’m as guilty as the next – linking to articles I deem newsworthy or helpful based on my own 33 years in communications arenas.

But keep in mind everyone has a purpose – to get people talking, thinking and paying attention. To that end goal, you should always consider the messenger and the motives. I continually tell my 84-year-old father, who cannot get by without reading his daily newspaper, to always “read between the lines.”

About 20 years ago or so, I remember visiting reporters at the Austin American-Statesmen who were horrified that they would have to begin posting articles online. (Remember to cue back to the year I am speaking of here for time capsule reference.) This was at the dawn of newspapers going online. Why were they worried? They would have to post quickly, without checking or verifying information with additional sources, and maybe miss a key or important fact. Their stories could then be “incomplete.”

As my Indiana University instructor Ralph Holsinger taught me back in the 1970s when I was a freshman J student, never run a story without checking with at least three independent sources. Or, add the journalism joke for a twist – “If your mother says she loves you, check it out.” I don’t think Ralph would be tweeting if he were alive today.

Hello and welcome to 2012.

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