The Media Make Us Confused Or Ignorant

Trying to determine what is going on in the world by reading newspapers is like trying to tell the time by watching the second hand of a clock.
– Ben Hecht

The primary purposes  of newspapers are to convey information about events of the recent past, about upcoming events and to pass along enough advertising to make the venture worthwhile. Most newspapers manage the third purpose, use the second as a propaganda machine to editorialize and the first to publish editorialized and managed information that the owners want to reach their audience.

In other words, if you want unbiased information, stay away from newspapers.

But stay away from radio and television news as well because they are as biased as the papers.

These media tend to “give the people what they want,” which usually appeals to the lowest common denominator of society. You are more apt to get factual information about the latest escapade of Britney Spears than you are about anything of a political nature. Any report that is either political or educational may well be totally biased in favour of the owner of that media outlet.

Recent studies in Canada suggest that more people get their “news” from news satire televison programs (comedies) than from newscasts or newspapers.

The lack of balanced reporting in the media may account for why so few people turn to the traditional news sources for their news. In fact, better than half the people don’t have a clear idea of what is happening in ther community or their country.

Enter the internet, which has had a reputation for biased reporting and outright fabrication of “facts” since early after its inception as a public information medium. However, the internet has the happy feature of making a wide variety of news sources available. Someone who wants to know what is happening can find out, no matter where in the world it’s going on. Google News, for example, constantly polls some 4500 news sources.

The internet also has such a diverse range of sources that a person can get a somewhat balanced viewpoint of politically charged subjects by reading reporting of the same subject from several different sources. Unfortunately, this takes time and not many people are prepared to devote as much time as is needed to get a balanced series of reports on the same subject from a variety of sources.

This means that most of us will have biased viewpoints about most subjects based on the sources we have used. There is nothing wrong with this so long as we realize that what we know is likely to be slanted toward the direction our sources want us to believe. And if we accept that opposing, contrary or just different opinions from other people we speak with may be valid and true. No one can be perfectly correct with news today.

The trouble with that thinking is that the role models we follow from the media tend to make us believe that we should trust only our own point of view and treat anything that opposes it as wrong. This is not just news bias, but bigotry. Emotional prejudice we might call it.

The only way out of this progressively worsening situation is to teach adolescents and young adults how to find factual news, how to sort through many biased sources, how to recognize propaganda and how to reach valid and supportable conclusions about the material they consume.

This is being done, but on a small scale and often on an unofficial (not on the curriculum) basis.

In general, our education systems prepare children to be confused adults who are largely ignorant of the realities of what is happening around them and their world.

This can be changed, but it must happen at the grass roots level, with parents speaking directly with the teachers of their children and the principals of those schools. School boards won’t change soon because they are hide-bound to tradition.

Change is up to each of us.

Bill Allin
Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today’s Epidemic Social Problems, striving to making confusing problems a little clearer and easier to solve.
Learn more at http://billallin.com

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