I saw a video of a lecturer showing his students a screen with two circles side by side, one red, one blue. He told them that despite appearances, they were not the same size. It was an optical illusion.

Which of you thinks the red one is bigger, he asked and a number of hands went up. Who thinks it’s the blue one, he asked and other hands went up.

In fact, he said, I misled you. They ARE both the same size but the fact that virtually all of you simply accepted what I told you demonstrated how quickly and easily people are prepared to accept a lie and convince themselves it was true.

Finding the truth these days, even in an age where “fact checker” is a full-time occupation is very difficult in times of information overload thanks to the internet, social media and 24/7 news, which you would think means we should be able to access the truth more easily.

But the opposite seems to be the case and part of the problem is an increasing mistrust of the media, a mistrust I feel has been deliberately promoted by powerful influences who diminish the media because they don’t want to be called to account. And, as an old hack myself, I have to say that the unethical behaviour of some in the media has been partly an enabler in bringing this lack of trust upon ourselves.

If you’re reading this column in the printed Impartial Reporter, you’re apparently one of a dying breed. Printed newspapers, we’re told, are on their way out and the not-too-distant future means you will get your news on the phone or some other device.

Mediahuis is a Belgian-based media company whose Irish wing now owns major newspapers such as the Irish Independent, Sunday Independent and Belfast Telegraph.

The CEO of Mediahuis Ireland, Peter Vandermeersch recently said that within 10 years daily newspapers won’t be printed any more. There will probably be printed versions at the weekend, but during the week all our news will be on phones etc.

Other major newspapers have said that they are not planning for this so soon, and some think his timescale is too short.

But the direction of travel is clear; newspaper sales have been declining for years and this has been accelerated by the technology that gives us news instantly.

The end of printed newspapers would sadden me, obviously. There’s nothing quite like opening a paper and seeing well-designed and laid out pages with an effective photograph.

Over the years, I’ve admired our press photographers for the superb images they produce; a skilled photographer with an eye for news is worth their weight in gold when they produce a stunning image which enhances the story, indeed often tells the emotion of the story in the faces of the people being written about.

It’s a combination of story-telling in words and pictures which makes a connection with the reader; this connection is particularly important in local newspapers.

Local papers have an important role to play in the community, whether it be covering relatively low-key events which aren’t covered elsewhere, supporting local campaigns such as the hospital one or highlighting issues in holding people to account.

I wouldn’t rush to see the end of our printed papers just yet. And that’s not just me being nostalgic. Local papers remain important for local community cohesion.

But we have to accept the realities of life and embrace the fact that many people, particularly the young, want their news and information in different formats.

In a discussion I was involved in this week on Radio Ulster with Vandermeersch, he made the valid point that newspapers need to be where the readers are and he felt that was in the modern digital world. But here in Ireland, there are still plenty of readers who are in the print world, not to mention the difficulties in rural areas in accessing broadband.

Evolution, not revolution is key.

I further argued that major newspaper groups, often outside Ireland, take decisions on a commercial basis. Naturally enough.

But the role of the media is much more than making money or should be. News media plays an important role in society in any democracy and as society changes the media is seriously under pressure as never before.

What is important is not so much the way people receive news, but the journalism which provides it. As someone who reads journalism voraciously and has experience of it for half a century, I’m convinced Ireland now has some of the finest journalists I’ve ever encountered.

And that’s despite a much-changed media landscape, which has produced a number of factors whereby traditional journalism is under pressure resulting in the good journalists of integrity being unfairly maligned.

One of the pressure points involves the conflict between commercial considerations and the public interest. I was critical of the Sunday Independent’s coverage of the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

The editor almost made a virtue of scant coverage by writing that the subject wasn’t among the “most read” on their website, implying that most people weren’t interested. It was symptomatic of the paper’s lack of interest in Northern Ireland at a time when issues affecting the whole island are fast coming down the track.

Whatever you think of the Good Friday Agreement, it was a major milestone in our history and continues to have significant impact across the island. It’s surely the role of a responsible media to cover such matters of public interest and it’s a worrying early sign of where a media driven by digital could end up.

In a wider context, the trust in the media has been further undermined by the spread of American style broadcasting into other countries.

Over the years, there have been many magnificent American journalists, from Walter Cronkite to Woodward and Bernstein and their brilliant editor Ben Bradlee. Indeed, there are still fine American journalists today who have been deliberately undermined and demonised by the Trump ‘fake news’ brigade.

The malignant damage to society of the phone-hacking Rupert Murdoch empire had already poisoned the media and wherever it went it attempted to unduly influence society. Murdoch set up Fox News in the United States in the 1990s with critics describing it as “a political movement masquerading as a news channel”.

The chickens have come home to roost in a big way in recent days, with their big star Tucker Carlson sacked by Fox News after they had to pay Dominion voting systems an eyewatering 787million dollars.

Essentially, Fox presenters were claiming that Dominion’s machines were deliberately flipping Trump votes to Biden at the last election. It’s been proved that not only was this a lie, but that the Fox presenters and executives knew it was a lie but still broadcast it anyway.

The undermining of the media in the United States has reached such a point that people will believe anything that they want to believe; one respectable and apparently sane couple telling journalists that they knew that Joe Biden is actually dead and his part is being played by an actor.

We haven’t reached such a point on this side of the pond just yet. But the media in the UK is more partisan than I’ve ever seen it. We have a plethora of radio and televisions stations which blatantly take a political line and in the process malign other stations, with a GB News presenter tweeting about the BBC as the British Bashing Corporation and Sky as Sly News.

And, wait for it, one of their presenters Jacob Rees Mogg attacks the BBC’s “veneer of impartiality” and says “I would encourage people tune into GB News for sensible and balanced reporting”.

You couldn’t make it up.

Watch GB News if you wish, and indeed they’re entitled in a free society to set up their station and promote their views. But be aware of where exactly they’re coming from.

Into the whole media scenario, another factor is the rise of social media, where it seems to me that often the very people who attack the “mainstream media” will accept anything that fits in with their worldview.

The second half of this article may seem to you to be a world away from the traditional media which we used to trust. And that’s the point, it is a world away. Don’t tar all media with the same brush.

Does our media make mistakes? Yep. But value the integrity of the many fine journalists who are still trying, under difficult circumstances, to carry out an important role in society.