You know the big three: MSNBC, Fox, and CNN. They claim to be 24-hour news channels supplying America with up-to-the-minute information on what’s happening in the world…. okay, you can stop laughing now.
At least, I hope you were laughing. It’s frightening to think people can’t tell the difference between actual news and social or political commentary.
Here’s an experiment: Watch one of these channels for an hour and write down the information you receive. Also note whether it was delivered in a neutral tone of voice or if the announcer made his own sentiments on the matter clear. Pay attention to the percentage of factual information versus opinion during that hour. See what I mean? Did you learn anything useful or merely the opinion of the news personality?
Now watch a segment on a pending bill in Congress. Does the newscaster tell you what’s in the bill, why some Congressmen support it and why some don’t, or does he rail at you about why the bill is a good idea or not without detailing the particulars? Too often the viewer is subjected to the viewpoint of that channel’s political bias and not given enough information to draw his own conclusions.
Have you ever watched a live speech, then the news summary afterwards, and wondered if you and the reporter saw the same speech? What would you think if you hadn’t bothered to watch it at all and relied only on what reporter told you was said instead? Do you think you would be accurately informed?
As for world news, you can forget it. Americans know next to nothing about other countries unless they seek out alternative sources on their own. They certainly won’t get any real understanding from cable news. Have you ever seen a story about the economic conditions in Mexico or how EU policies affect US businesses?
If you’re a Fox watcher, it would be very hard for you to form anything but a negative opinion of all things Democrat. If you’re an MSNBC fan, then the GOP represents every backward-thinking, oppressive policy out there. If you watch CNN, you’re probably an Independent, but not necessarily any better informed.
Is reading better than watching?
Is print or the internet any more objective? Slightly. At least you have the option to click on a story based on the headline instead of being force-fed the next news segment. And you don’t have to put up with the announcer’s subjective presentation. Consider the following choices:
- “How Obama is Ruining Our Economy”
- “President Signs Bill Raising Federal Minimum Wage”
- “The Impact of Raising the Minimum Wage on Job Growth”
If you despise the current president, you’re probably going to click on the first article, not because you want to learn anything, but because you’re looking for agreement.
The title of the second article tells you all you need to know, but you might click on it if you’re interested in the details.
The third article will appeal to those who want some analysis on the topic, not just the bare facts, but you have to consider the source before accepting any conclusions. An article from The Economist about minimum wage impacts is more credible than one from a political action committee, for example.
How about you then? Which article would you pick? Which news channel do you watch? Are you aware of the bias being fed to you or do you swallow it wholesale? In this day of communication overload, critical thinking is more vital than ever, but too many information consumers fail to see both sides of an issue, or even conceive there may be another valid viewpoint that differs from their own. If you only watch one cable news source, I guarantee you know far less than you think.