Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Who Do You Believe

At least a couple times this week, I've passed a vehicle on the Sioux City roads with a bumper sticker that says "I Don't Believe the Liberal Media". I'm not sure what to do with that one.

What exactly don't they believe? Do they think the liberal media makes things up -- flat out lies? Well, yeah, I know some of them think that. I'm not sure I do.

I try to temper my thoughts by considering what others think about the conservative media, as in Fox News. (Isn't it interesting, by the way, that "conservative media" and "Fox News" are pretty much synonomous? Explains why FNC is hated so much. The conservative hate has more area to be spread around in -- the liberal hate is very focused.) I fully acknowledge that Fox leans conservative and that, therefore, I don't "believe" everything they say.

But do they flat out lie? Sigh. Unfortunately, there are probably occasions when someone speaking on there makes a statement that is more rooted in their own wishful thinking than in fact. (Curious, though, that the occasions of this behavior that I see myself never make it on the websites that my liberal friends are constantly linking to in their personal missions to take down Fox News. Usually, the clips those organizations show are pulled out of context and clearly misrepresented.) Of course, the liberal news stations are as guilty of this wishful thinking as Fox is. But I don't believe any of those stations are intentionally misrepresenting reality out there in an attempt to influence their viewers -- their views of reality are simply colored by the glasses they see it through.

It seems we have come to an unfortunate time when no media can be truly "believed". You can't just listen to anyone on the news and just take it for granted that what you're hearing is reliable. You always have to consider the source, compare it with other accounts, ask the questions, examine the data yourself, dig for the data they're leaving out. (Even when -- and perhaps especially when -- you like what they're telling you.) I don't think there is such a thing as unbiased journalism anymore. "Fair and balanced" is the best you can hope for -- that they give both sides equal time and equal credibility. And nobody really does that. We have to do it for ourselves, with our own little channel clickers and our own little laptops. We have to be our own journalists.

It's a shame. But it just makes the effective eduation of our children all the more important. We gotta teach our kids to think for themselves, folks.

1 comment:

Marshall Webber said...


I find that you've hit it on the head again. My news is gleaned and aggregated from sources across the political spectrum and around the world. It is the only way that I feel like I'm getting a rounded enough mental diet that I have enough data to assemble an opinion out of.

My mother, who is degreed in Photo-Journalism and who has taught the subject makes an interesting comment: "As long as someone else owns the press, your job is to report the news as they see it. If you want the freedom to tell others the truth as you see it, buy your own soapbox."

As is usual you can supply a single set of facts, and get a wide range of opinions about what it means. When many sources of 'news' have a history of not only supplying their opinions, but a unique series of fact fabricated to support them, it is time to diversify your news sources.

Here's what I read: The BBC, The Guardian, The Christian-Science Monitor, The Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Times, Der Spiegel (highly recommended) as well as Al-Jazzera, and The New Yorker. I tend to avoid FOX, and the LA Times, and sniff twice at something published in the Washington Post.

It is an unfortunate truth that long form news is going the way of the dodo. NPR did it for a long time, and even their material is getting shorter by the year, as if attention spans won't last for them to go deeply into a subject to examine it from many angles. The only remaining long form I know if is The New Yorker, and while I read it, I am aware that it has both cultural and political biases. But I find that most of the time it just does a great job on going beyond the headlines.

The most important change I've made to my news consumption however is just this: LESS. Less fretting about things I can't change, less heartburn about stuff happening where I can't affect it. I found that when I did dig in and read, it was about something important to me, rather than just allowing the blather to flow by all day long. I have MSNBC Money running all day long out of the corner of my eye (financials; I don't have a choice) so I'm glad to leave it off at home.

After a month of limiting my exposure to the constant news cycle, I found my mood much improved!