TidBITS, a free, weekly, electronic publication that covers news and views relating to the Macintosh and the Internet.
On top of all the TidBITS content, this crew publishes another very interesting publication:
NetBITS - "a free, weekly, electronic publication that provides practical Internet information to individuals who spend significant amounts of time online for personal or professional reasons." - http://www.netbits.net/
And wait! that's not all! You can also get TidBITS in German, Dutch, French, Chinese and Japanese, provided through the efforts of many dozens of other people.Christina Helmer (my esteemed editor) wrote an interesting seed message in our Sideroad discussions (shown in italics, with my responses interspersed). The message is open for general discussion (subscribe off the Sideroad Internet topic page), but it hit close to home so I figured I'd respond and put my (well edited) comments here).
Todd Kuipers' review of FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting) got me thinking about a good discussion for this week. Is the media biased? They aren't supposed to be, so why is that happening?
I think that unbiased media was an ideal that fit well with the regimented media concepts of the first half of this century, and didn't really make much sense even then. Take a look at any exhibition of early century newspapers and articles - or visit your library and take a look at some of the older archives. Given the plethora of media outlets in recent (last 30) years and the "need" to gain eyeballs, journalism began to obviously merge with PR as early as the early fifties (much farther back when you consider the governmental/religious control over media during the past 4-5 hundred years). I truly hope that people's expectation of an unbiased media is minimal at best. As an example, my experience in distributing/seeing my employers news releases over the past 10 years has shown:
This is not to say that journalists and media outlets are fundamentally bad (though some are). Keep in mind that even the best journalists mostly have only a certain level of resources available to them. Most news in newspapers is derived from newswires and press releases, meaning that sometimes important news information (guerrilla attack in Central America, new technology breakthrough) is carried by a single news agency/source: you are relying entirely on one persons point of view for the dope. Is that person guerilla sympathetic? tomato genetic enhancing antagonistic? technology indifferent? Emotion is in play in everything we do, we can't necessarily expect journalists to turn theirs off completely...
- There are generally two types of media outlets:
Though not to say that the above publications are not well meaning.
- those that babble your information verbatim while presenting it as a "news article (dangerous) and,
- those that try to interpret the information and in the process fundamentally screw-up the facts (including obviously stated numbers). Of the 100+ news releases I've been involved with, not one made it to the newspaper properly researched (phone calls, background research etc.) or properly presented (e.g. written as 10 units shipped this _week_ - published as 10 units shipped this _year_).
- News releases are not news. They are published and distributed by organizations (business, government or NGO's) to try to sway the public or specific groups into buying their ideology. You might agree or disagree with the content, but everything is propaganda. (propaganda operatively being - the information disseminated by groups that you don't agree with ;-)
You can pick up any newspaper or turn to the different TV or radio stations newscasts and see where their agenda lies. Is there anything wrong with that? Should they be able to report the news with their own opinions and beliefs?
Not everyone will agree with this, but I tend to feel much safer reading the letters/editorial page of a paper. At the very least people there do not hide behind a poorly constructed veil of objectivity. You can read a letter responding to an article and get a reasonable idea of the person's position and a start on what the article content was about. (If you subscribe to that publication, or visit the library regularly, you can go back and find the article if it piques your interest.) One of the biggest reasons I like to read magazines like the Economist and Foreign Affairs over the domestic news rags like Time and Macleans. First they (the former) provide a non-domestic (from my Canadian point of view) view of what's going on (interesting to know what strangers think of you), second they are all opinion, no bones about it. They may not provide me with an opinion I agree with, but they do make clear another point of view.
Well as I know it is impossible for everyone to be completely objective, but I was told by a very wise old reporter that......you are not the story......and no one cares what you think.....so report the facts. I do believe that this is the way news should be reported. Of course not for every situation but I don't need someone's opinion instilled upon myself while trying to find out what is happening in the world. What do you think?
I generally agree with the above statement, and truly wish I could rely on it more often. I'm not interested in what a reporter feels/is interested in when they "should" be reporting at least a modicum of facts. Given the prevalence of objective "opinion" on TV news programs (coupled with "stock photos" and selected "clips" of video), it is the reason I generally refuse to get my news from TV except on inconsequential issues (e.g. Mr. Jones down the street had a treed cat again, today). Radio (especially NPR, BBC and CBC) tends to be slightly better given the lack of useless/misleading images. Newspapers are slightly better again because, even with opinion, they have the space to provide more information, and also have the letters forum to provide dissenting feedback.
My stance tends to be:
Now you might think that I have time to read all sorts of stuff and that your job, kids, family, cat, plants, hobby keep you from reading as much as you "should". After all the babling above all I mean to say is that don't necessarily settle for the media that you have. Be critical (a much maligned word defined one way as - adj. "containing analystical evaluations") and demand quality information for your efforts.
- unless you are willing to research to source facts, don't take to heart much that you hear, see or read in the media. Take it in and fit it into your knowledge set but don't build a religion out of it. Skepticism works.
- find media outlets/journalists that you can trust - through your own footwork, you've found them to be generally truthful and accurate because of past research. If you find journalists like this promote them.
- keep a very open mind, but don't be swayed by every idiot with an agenda. Be willing to debate, but be willing to concede when faced with better information.
- if you are interested in staying informed, learn how to research your information quickly and keep these sources close at hand so you can verify those items that, at the very least, affect you and those close to you. (smart researching is a skill that can be learned).
My 3 cents (Canadian). Thanks!