First morning at Chautauqua, Judy Wolfe, the female partner of the Glassman/Wolfe in-house Road Scholar team, threw out the question, Are the media biased? Before anyone could respond, she said, Depends on who you ask.
I am grateful to distill and share some of my learning about how to discriminate truth from falsehood in the news from my Road Scholar’s week at Chautauqua. According to President Trump, all news is biased and must be called out except those outlets that adhere to his point of view. Despite being the number one target of Trump’s organized campaign to discredit mainstream press, the news media is alive and well.
- Marty Baron, the executive editor of the Washington Post and the former Boston Globe editor highlighted in the movie Spotlight and the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal, is hopeful. It’s a great time to be a journalist, he said. His logic, clear and specific made sense. For a long time, people have taken journalism for granted…in the last year or so…maybe people have begun to understand that you shouldn’t take quality journalism for granted.
I could not agree more. In fact, the whole premise of 52 seniors coming together to dig into media and the news was all about honoring and embracing what the 4th estate presently faces in the workings of our democracy.
- Jay Rosen, the New York University professor of journalism and a self-described “loyal critic of the press,” held back no punches. There is an organized campaign to discredit the mainstream press in this country…And it’s working, he said. When journalists get to their desk in the morning, between 20% & 30% of the public, the electorate is already lost to them before they even log in.
How dispiriting is that, especially when you consider the dangers inherent in a black out of investigative journalistic endeavors imbedded in fact checking and accountability.
- According to Baron, quality journalism depends on accountability. The purpose is to find out what’s really going on…particularly when it involves wrongdoing, he said. Baron agreed with Rosen’s assessment that Trump is engaged in an effort to try to intimidate the press and maybe do more. He emphasized the Post’s priority in protecting the confidentiality of its sources through the use of encrypted online communication and entirely offline communication when possible.
- Kathleen Hall Jamieson, FactCheck.org co-founder, introduced the dangers of viral deception, a term she coined about the usage of misleading or flat-out false narratives. Passed from person to person and friend to friend…misleading facts, narratives, rise in credibility as more and more people share them online. And with each additional click, public discourse is degraded just a little more.
She warned, Deception is problematic because it can mobilize national action…mislead the electorate… invite non-responsive policy, impugn character, even endanger lives.
The good news is that we are learning how to manage our tendency as human beings to automatically accept and spread content we agree with…Familiarity equals perceived accuracy. (WRONG!)
I was dismayed to learn that a quarter of US adults have shared fake news and the relevant research reveals that misinformation tends to persist even in face of debunking.
There is genius behind FactCheck.org as a possible antidote in that FactCheck.org deals with presenting long-form factual details rather than conclusions. I’m grateful to learn that long-form accounts which require the reader to follow a sequence of facts (upon which to reflect) can have a salient effect on short-order and untrue conclusions.
In brief, the mindfulness payoff in taking time to read, reflect and digest the detail accounting of events can and will keep facts front and center.
- For accuracy, Jamieson recommends:
- Consider the source (who is funding?)
- Read beyond the headline (dig deeper)
- Check the author (Google or Wikipedia)
- Ask what the supporting evidence is
- Check the date (current or old)
- Consider if it’s a joke (ha?)
- Check your biases (not easy but necessary)
- Consult the experts
More, next blog. As always, I would appreciate comments.