Sunday, May 17, 2009

Not the Whole Story - News Focuses

4) News focuses on the unusual, and thus may distort and sensationalize. By its very nature, "news" ignores the familiar or orthodox. The shocking and outlandish seem much more interesting. But by ignoring the everyday, mundane occurrences of which life is made up most of the time for most people, news automatically skews your picture of the world.

5) Reporters may not analyze issues deeply enough, and thus may not draw sound conclusions. The chairman of a major international corporation blamed shallow thinking, in part, for the media's frequent failure to truly illuminate :

"The single most damaging trait in today's journalism, in my opinion, is that... the important elements of context, perspective and judgment often suffer. I will even be so blunt as to say that with some reporters and editors, it may be the result of just plain taking the easy road intellectually. Understanding and reporting the importance of events in their proper context surely is a heavy responsibility to place on anyone, but in fact, I believe the journalist has that obligation."

6) Reporters may be biased. The media once prided themselves on simply reporting all the facts about an event or issue, without interpreting those facts. But recent years have seen the rise of the "new journalism" and the revival of an old approach, "advocacy".

The reader or viewer cannot be trusted to judge soundly based on the facts alone, the theory goes (and, in a world without solid standards, this may be true!). So the journalist must offer analysis and even personal opinion as fact to support or refute a given point of view - to help you know what to think.

Many in the media have openly abandoned the imperative to be properly objective. Some go so far as to present opinion and personal bias as fact. Trying to tell the difference can be one of the most risky exercises you face in understanding world events.

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