How Do You Consume Your News?
(Originally published at Medium.com/@jealford)
It’s no secret that news media like newspapers and many magazines have been in an economic decline for a long time. It’s also no secret that the online world, although needed, surely plunged us into a miasma of misinformation. Propaganda, if you will. And, that can be a problem.
I have many friends and colleagues in the news industry whom I respect and enjoy working with. So, if I mess up, guys, please forgive me. This blog post is strictly my opinion. (See what I did there? I defined my intent and hopefully tempered your expectations.)
Back to the Propaganda issue.
Propaganda is information, not objective, used primarily to influence an audience and further an agenda. Propaganda is often associated with material prepared by governments, but activist groups and companies can also produce propaganda.
Some equate this type of information to publicity, advertising and hyperbole. Some see it as misinformation, indoctrination and the party line. (Another point to ponder: one word — propaganda. Two interpretations — illustrating perspective.)
Why am I worrying my “pretty little head?” (Yes, I repeated that deadly phrase that I’ve heard consistently over my career from bosses, colleagues and others who don’t deserve a label.) Here’s why. I just completed yet another heated conversation with a long time “friend.” According to this person, whom I still love despite the rude nature of our talk, accused me of being “a Hillary supporting feminazi libtard who knows nothing about our history.” Once again, I am fully indicted for stating an opinion. In this case, one that didn’t coincide with my conversation partner’s perception of the world.
Well that certainly shut me up. NOT!
This lovely member of my not-so-inner circle got a bit of a lecture on how to evaluate information. First, I talked about the echo chamber that many fallen victim. I use that loaded word, “victim,” on purpose. Because many are so totally unaware of where they get their information (I won’t call it news and you’ll see why) or how it is weighted or biased.
We use Facebook and Twitter to communicate with real world and virtual friends. However, we also have come to rely on a steady stream of links, opinions, infographics and videos in our newsfeeds. My newsfeed is clearly biased. How about yours? This is precisely why I don’t rely on either platform for news. I read stories from newspapers, online and traditional print, and watch television broadcasters to broaden my views.
Redditor Kydoemus stated it nicely.
“Bias in news is a spectrum. If one accepts a major facet of journalism and news as the objective relay of facts, some news is very biased (Huffington Post, Breitbart, to represent far left and right examples) and some is less biased (The Associated Press, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, NPR, National Geographic). But the least biased may still take a decidedly biased stance on certain issues (Nat Geo on environmental issues, for example).”
So, here’s where the rub comes in. According to my friend, if I watch CNN, I fall under the Clinton News Network spell. That did it. I heard this during the election and to continue to hear it is nonsensical. But it did give me a clue into this person’s ability — or not — to discern. This person equated all the panelists, the talking heads who parse the news 24/7, as journalists. I had to stop the conversation. Not all “pundits” are journalists, I explained. They are on air BECAUSE of their expertise, opinion and penchant to cause drama.
So, I thought a little glossary might help:
Professionals with expertise in evaluating specific news stories. For example, CNN uses political analysts to represent Democratic or Republican points of view. Financial and economic analysts evaluate financial news, money and the economy. Sometimes these folks are referred to derogatorily as “talking heads.”
Typically referred to in broadcast and known as news anchors, personalities and announcers. Think of talk show hosts on both radio and TV who bring on guests, manage interviews, facilitate discussions. In print and online, you may see these folks as columnists or bloggers. They often espouse their own opinions along with certain news issues.
An essay that presents the opinion from the point of view of the media editor or publisher. Most papers, magazines and broadcasters strive for unbiased, factual reporting. Many have sections dedicated to the editor’s specific opinion, guest opinions and letters from their reading and viewing audiences. In the traditional news, you see this labeled as “editorial page.”
A type of yellow journalism used to deliberately misinform. Often produced to look like a traditional news outlet, it is written and produced with the intent to mislead. Often sporting sensational, exaggerated or false headlines that grab attention and foster social media sharing. “Pizza Gate” is often cited as a fake news issue. This is not to be equated with press releases, standard marketing materials or statements sent out from a company or personality.
Many perceive that journalists and news organizations select events, facts and stories to support their specific narrative.
Newly received or noteworthy information about recent events, products, people. At its base, it is information not known to someone. At its core, it is presented to help the reader or viewer be informed about a situation or issue and to form their own conclusions. The front section of a newspaper or the “top of the hour” in a broadcast, typically house the straight forward news.
My point in explaining these terms is simple. We should know how to find, read or watch real news. We should learn to discern what is biased and what is not. It’s OK to be entertained by the commentators and analysts, but it is up to us to be in charge of what we share. It is up to us to decide what information is relevant to making our own opinions, judgments and decisions.
I liked this comment from a Redditor: “Whether it is fake news or biased news it is up to us to sharpen our BS detectors. This requires critical thinking skills. Sadly, many of us have not been taught or do not use our critical thinking skills.”
Was this helpful?
* Thanks to Merriam Webster, Google and all the great research tools available to us online.
* If you are concerned about bias, check out MediaBiasFactCheck.com
*** Download my eBook: 3 Magic Question to Instantly Improve Your Communications at beclear101.com
(Note: This graphic went viral quickly visit http://www.allgeneralizationsarefalse.com/?p=65 to understand Vanessa Otero’s process in developing and measuring bias for this chart.)