- Posted January 24, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The Truth About News Sources
While the debate over gun control rages, the news media fails to do its job--report the news. Three or four decades ago, you could generally turn on the news and you would get just that--the news for the day. Over the past twenty-five years or so with the spread of cable TV news and the Internet, the "news" has become more of a tabloid than a source of information. Each and every news source has realized there is money where there is gossip but they cannot knowingly report false information. The way around this is to report information that is slanted to cater to a particular audience, which in turn allows advertisers to better target certain groups of people. It's not about ratings, it's about revenue and the news source that can gather the most sheep, wins the revenue battle.
Unfortunately like many other issues, the American public is to blame for this shift. Most people want to watch or listen to the news reported in a manner that supports their beliefs. If news sources were more like they were forty years ago, no one would watch because it would be too boring. If the news sources reported well-rounded statistics that left people to make up their own mind about a topic, most Americans could not mentally and emotionally handle it. The news would be more like a text book and let's face it, most people hate to learn new things and become educated on things we have no interest in. It is much easier to tune into a news source and let them tell you what you want to hear.
Here are three ways you can separate yourself from your news sources:
1. Read the same news story from two or three different sources and compare the facts of the story. By doing this, you should be able to easily separate the facts from commentary and you might learn that one source is more accurate than the other. Much of the "news" today is commentary with what I call "attitude reporting" where the source is biased and focuses on one side of the issue much more than the other. Often times this can be identified by comparing the "meat" of the story to what might be a mere mention of the other side of the issue. The bulk of the story will focus on one person or group of people, then usually a sentence or two will merely mention the opposing person or group of people. Reading from multiple sources is likely to give you a full well-rounded view of the topic or issue at hand.
2. Read the headline again after you read the story and see if they really match. Most of the time the headline is written to draw you in to read the story, ultimately leading you to see advertisements and/or click on links which generates revenue for the news source. This results in the headline being carefully crafted to catch your attention based on your beliefs, but when you consider the facts of the content and try to take out the commentary the headline does not match. Almost every time I post a link to a news story on a social media site I change the headline as it appears on the social media site so the link title of the article is a closer match to the story.
3. Investigate the news yourself using reliable sources. Wikipedia.com is widely regarded to be nearly as good or sometimes more accurate than Encyclopedia Britannica because it is constantly updated and corrected. Using search engines can be easy but sometimes quite tricky because of the power of news websites. Search engines use a variety of complex algorithms which determine how to rank search results. News websites are among some of the most influential sources when it comes to these algorithms so it can be sometimes difficult to rely on the search results of a given topic. Do not simply search for more on the topic, but investigate some of the facts of a story. For example, with respect to recent gun control debates, one news site may use the term "assault rifle" while another may use the term "semi-automatic rifle". In reality, they mean different things because weapons that are classed as "assault rifles" ARE semi-automatic rifles and function no differently. However, "assault rifles" have cosmetic differences and accessories that classify them differently, such as a folding stock or a pistol grip stock. One news source might prefer the term "assault rifle" over "semi-automatic rifle" because it sounds more dangerous and deadly which makes the news more dramatic or touches on a sensitive topic. However, if you research the facts, you might learn they are really the same firearm rather than having fear put to the front of your mind by a misleading news source.
By following these tips you can begin to separate yourself from slanted views and commentary that misleads the public on many important issues. Unfortunately, obtaining accurate news is a lot more work than it was forty years ago.