I’ve been observing the interesting (but infuriating) process of how “news” gets fed to the internet and major news outlets. My curious position has been one where I have firsthand knowledge of a situation (or pretty close to it) but am not obliged to comment on the “news” as it’s portrayed. So, I’ll be general.
As frequently occurs in American society these days, the real news portion of the story gets buried or nonexistent. Facts or information that might be valuable to an undecided citizen is painted over with opinion and personal beliefs equated with facts. I think that’s called the human element. (We tend to screw up the reality.) All is fair when political wrangling is in action. I can pick out logical fallacies like weed out of the garden: straw men, false dichotomies, arguments from authority. You name it.
Google News will alert me to stories on this given topic. What I saw was the same story recirculated around the AP wire for weeks. The wording is nearly identical in every instance – regurgitated from the press release from the activist organization. It contains a boatload of not-even-half-truths, mischaracterizations and promises of horrible outcomes. So, it shows me that most stories have made it to news outlets unfiltered, unchecked and uncritiqued.
The topic is also picked up by blogs. These are blogs with purposes (agendas). Blogs hosted by newspapers make it appear that the author is a journalist. Many are just self-styled experts on a topic or doing op-eds. These are opinions standing next to news hoping some credibility rubs off. If a link to such a blog is seen by others unfamiliar with its typical bent, it’s not immediately apparent that it might be biased. It might look like informed commentary or “news”.
One genuine newspaper picked up the story. The topic is addressed by what appears to be a working reporter. Several “facts”, however, are not corrected. Two sides are portrayed by using whatever statements had been released. It’s a task any 12-yr old who can read could do. The newspaper is located in an area of the nation that is particularly affected by the issue at hand. They are the interested party and are making their attempt to be the squeaky wheel.
The false view that was pushed, for political purposes, prompted a letter writing campaign. I’m not privileged to know how many letters were actually generated to legislators or how seriously they took them. The parties on the other side of the argument did not really go on the defensive but chose to wait until the wave washes over and dissipates – like most hot topics do. This tactic doesn’t always work. Try googling “town hall meetings” and see the hysteria fail to fizzle out. Did facts feed the town hall frenzy? No. It was unsubstantiated opinion and mischaracterizations.
This process plays out for dozens of so-called news stories every day. Google News and other “news” outlets treat opinion on par with facts. And, publications in print or on the web find people will chose to view fiction perhaps more often than non-fiction, depending on which point of view they hold and wish to bolster.
I’ve been educated. My conclusion is that about 90% of “news” is unsubstantiated, probably wrong, or an outright lie. The current media culture scuttles progress and results in poor choices. We’re being overwhelmed by raving hysterics. Haven’t we been through this before? It’s devastating. The voice of reason loses ground to the loudmouth irrational screamers.