Bias in Journalism … Truth Decay

Ever had one of those ‘eureka moments’ where you come across a previously unknown, or perhaps once known but now forgotten, piece of information that explains one of those ‘how on earth did we get here’ observations?

The QuipperyExample: how did we (and I can only speak for Canada and the USA) get to a place where balanced, unopinionated news is now (often) very biased journalism? Part of the answer, according to the video below (and numerous stories on the internet) was the introduction, in 2008, of Accountability Journalism.

Accountability Journalism was the brainchild (or perhaps given a voice by) Associated Press Bureau Chief, Ron Fournier. Mr. Fournier believed that the conventional press model – where both sides of an argument are entitled to equal weight – was no longer needed in journalism. In it’s place, he gave free reign to first-person emotive language in news reporting. Previously, this had been reserved for opinion editorials. He gave the journalist the power to decide what was factual and fair and whether or not to include an opposing opinion.

Is this a slippery slope where journalism becomes not an outlet for news, but becomes an interpretation of said news?
– Susan Duclos, Digital Journal, July 2008 –

Ten years later, the answer to the slippery slope question is ‘yes’:

Journalism in the U.S. has become more subjective and consists less of the detailed event- or context-based reporting that used to characterize news coverage.
– ‘Truth Decay,’ RAND –

Of course, the situation seems worse than it is if you consider there are roughly 12000 journalists in Canada and 33000 in the United States. The wackadoodle reporters are just the most visible.

Who tops your list of Journalists you trust the least? Who do you trust the most?

 

 

 

 

The Race to the Bottom of the News Barrel

What was the spark? A MAGA hat worn by mostly white male teens? Was this a clear case of stereotyping?

Stereotyping or Social Categorization is a cognitive process by which we put individuals into social groups and respond to them as members of a social group, instead of individuals. This can lead to negative interactions. For example, a young liberal might take issue with anyone they identify as a conservative Baby Boomer. Any number of people might be instantly offended by someone they perceive as a privileged white male. We live in angry times.

MAGA – Make America Great Again

Social Categorization is what happened in January 2019 when someone posted, on Twitter, a short video taken at the ‘March for Life’ event. The video was said to be proof that Kentucky’s Covington Catholic High School Boys (some of them wore MAGA hats) had harassed a Native American and a group of Black Men at the Lincoln Memorial. The Native American, Nathan Phillips said he believed  “These young men were beastly, and these old black individuals was their prey, and I stood in between them and so they needed their pounds of flesh and they were looking at me for that.”

The video (sent out from a Twitter account that was later shut down by Twitter for fake and misleading registration) went viral. Prominent individuals and numerous news media picked up the story and ran it without verifying the accuracy. The teens were vilified. There were calls for the student’s expulsion from school; they were threatened with harm, and in a few cases, there were death threats.

Sober second thought came after a careful review of the many videos that were taken that day. These showed that the viral video did not accurately depict what had happened. It simply depicted the story that the video wanted people to believe – ‘privileged young white males’ are evil. The video clip didn’t show that the ‘Men Behaving Badly’, were the Black Hebrew Israelites who were yelling homophobic slurs and racist insults and the Native American who thrust himself at the students.

A significant number of personalities and members of the media, after looking at the full videos, retracted their stories, or apologized for what they had said about the boys.  Other people, however, would not correct their attack stories.

Enter Attorney Robert Barnes.

The threat of litigation has perhaps led to a few more apologies. ‘The Weekly’, (a news program on CBC  which is a Canadian Federal Government Crown Corporation) hosted by veteran reporter Wendy Mesley,  apologized and corrected their story, but not until March 10. They said they “regret characterizing those teens as ‘teenage bullies’” and corrected what they said was an erroneous statement.

Why would it take almost 2 months to issue an apology for running a story based on a viral video on Twitter? What does this say about investigative reporting? What does this say to the consumers and readers of just about all forms of media today?

What can you do to avoid jumping to biased conclusions?

  • Read a range of views from across the spectrum – right, left and middle.
  • Be skeptical about every story that tells you what your viewpoint should be.
  • Be willing to accept that people are not the same as the social categories you put them in.
  • Accept that opposing viewpoints might be just as valid as yours because they are likely based on bias too…

What is an example of a biased opinion you held until you read and understood the validity of a contradictory assessment?

Opinion Dressed Up in ‘News’ Clothes

The QuipperyWhat we used to call the ‘News‘ isn’t really news anymore, is it!? Often it is simply ‘Opinion‘ dressed up in its ‘news’ clothes… and there is so much of it. It is hard not to be overwhelmed with the volume of information that you might have to digest in order to make a decision about something.

This is why people switch to the default mode –  ‘Confirmation Bias’. It makes life so much simpler. You can simply choose to read opinions that support what you’ve come to believe, and ignore the rest.

Terry Pratchett calls this type of ‘news’ – ‘olds’:

In short, what people think they want is news, but what they really crave is olds… Not news but olds, telling people that what they think they already know is true.
– Terry Pratchett; from the novel The Truth –

Are you Stuck in the Olds?

There is a wealth of information on the internet that can help you to explore fact based arguments that might take you beyond where your bias has parked you. Unfortunately, you have to dig pretty deep sometimes to find the information that supports a narrative that opposes the politically ‘correct’ arguments of the day.

The News is Worse but the World is Better

In the video that follows, Steven Pinker, Author and Harvard Professor discusses the basic paradox – news today seems worse than ever – but based on a number of key metrics, the world is better than it’s ever been. Pinker explores the data and makes the case for how can we tackle the world’s problems while not drowning in negativity.

Let’s explore bias.

What controversial issue do you feel strongly about? Would you be willing to seek out information that contrasted with your belief?

 

Best Dr. Oz Interview Ever: Jordan Peterson

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson is a Canadian professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, a clinical psychologist and the author of the the bestseller book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. His books, lectures and videos are designed to advance the modern understanding of creativity, competence and personality.

This is a long interview, but it is an excellent introduction to the man and his ideas. Dr. Oz does an excellent job of conducting this interview.

When you have something to say, silence is a lie.
– Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos –

Don’t underestimate the power of vision and direction. These are irresistible forces, able to transform what might appear to be unconquerable obstacles into traversable pathways and expanding opportunities. Strengthen the individual. Start with yourself. Take care with yourself. Define who you are. Refine your personality. Choose your destination and articulate your Being. As the great nineteenth-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche so brilliantly noted, “He whose life has a why can bear almost any how.
– Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos –

Perhaps you are overvaluing what you don’t have and undervaluing what you do.
– Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos –

The Quippery

Mike Rowe – Not all Knowledge Comes from College

If you don’t know who Mike Rowe is, please  make it your ‘job’ today to find out. He is perhaps the most down to earth, profoundly intelligent, practical person in the world. Yes, in the whole world.  This is his bio: About Mike.

In this video, Mike Rowe talks to Ben Shapiro about many things, including the skills gap that exists because young people are being educated for jobs that don’t exist while the jobs that are available go unfilled. (Don’t get upset because Ben inserts advertising – someone has to pay so you can watch this!)

We’ve become slowly and inexorably and profoundly disconnected from a lot of very basic things that, when I grew up, I was really connected to – like where my food comes from, where my energy comes from, basic history, basic curiosity, you know? The things that fundamentally allow us to assume a level of appreciation that, in my view, is the best way to bridge those gaps.

… if we don’t have appreciation… If we’re not blown away by the miracle that occurs when we flick the switch and the lights come on; if we’re not gobsmacked by flushing the toilet and seeing all of it go away; when we start losing our appreciation for those things, the gap deepens. And I think the gap right now is extraordinary.
– Mike Rowe –