Journalism has deteriorated to a huge degree in the online age. A lot of articles and video content are one-sided short ‘clickbait’ – short messages designed to trigger an extreme emotional reaction. ALMOST ALL journalism is like this these days, it doesn’t matter if you have a highly established news network you have been trusting for decades, they have all had to adopt this low-quality strategy due to the ultra-competitive and dire financial situation that all news reporting finds itself in. However a lot of people still take news content at complete face value, and this leads to a huge number of people being misled about the real facts.
So, whenever you are reading, listening to, or watching a piece of news content, here are some questions you can ask yourself to really get the full picture of what you are consuming.
1) How long is this news article/segment? What depth does it go into? Broadsheets like the New York Times go into much more depth than a 10 second ‘news highlights’ clip, and will usually present a much more detailed and extensive argument. If you really want to understand something, as the saying goes, read a book – or better yet, several books from several different perspectives. Do not expect to understand the full issue from TV news segments.
2) What emotional reaction is the journalist trying to get me to feel? What language does the piece use, what quotes are they using, what video are they using, what music do they use to set the scene, is the news anchor looking like they are being particularly dramatic? What is the emotional message?
3) What is the editorial slant of the news source? EVERY news source has an editorial voice – or bias – and you need to take that into account when getting your news from that source. It doesn’t matter if you generally agree with the editorial voice, you have to understand that everything is biased. News isn’t free and a lot of news sources get their funding from various ‘benefactors’ who often have a very real say on their editorial bias. Knowing how the news organisation is funded is very important in knowing what slant they will take, especially when it relates to political news.
4) Does the news piece provide a fair and plausible representation of both sides? There are ALWAYS two sides to the story, this is something that has been all but extinguished in modern news reporting. A few news sources will set up often comic ‘straw men’ opposition points, like the BBC interviewing odd people who drink their own urine for a news piece on how health information is understood by the public. While this may be amusing, it is not meant to present a fair and accurate argument from both sides, it is designed to ridicule one side. There are usually some genuine points from each side that are worth everyone considering, no matter what story it is.
5) Seek out contrary points and opposition points of view. If you want to understand a news event further, seek out a number of different articles from respectable sources with very different editorial voices/biases. Even when you take into account their individual biases, there are usually some valid points underneath it all.
I hope that everyone will consider thinking more criticially about the news they consume.