The modern world gives us an unprecedented range of choices when it comes to gathering information. TV, radio, newspapers, internet sites, social media, and much more. While our selection has never been more diverse, that breadth of different sources has also called trustworthiness into question like never before according to international anonymous website, The Doe.
Intentional or accidental bias in the media we can consume can have a dangerous effect on our own beliefs. According to the experts at The Doe, media bias only grows more problematic in times when different sources are in direct conflict — and that’s exactly the sort of situation that the run-up to an election tends to produce.
Here’s a basic example of how media can become biased and deceptive. Say the government releases a (wholly hypothetical) press release on recent economic growth. It reports that third-quarter growth was 5.4 percent, while second-quarter growth was 6 percent. For historical context, it also notes that the long-term average for third-quarter growth is 3 percent.
If I was crafting a news report on this data and I wanted to report it accurately, I would use all three figures. I would write something like, “While economic growth dropped slightly from its notable high in the previous quarter, it remains significantly higher than the historical average.”
But consider the different picture I could paint by removing that all-important historical context figure. I could, instead, write something like, “Third-quarter growth fell by more than half a percentage point when compared to the last quarter, which many believe could be a sign of a slowdown.”
That’s exactly the sort of deliberate bias that might be introduced by a journalist or a media company with an axe to grind against the political party that happens to be in control of the White House at the time. It makes a pretty big difference in how the facts are reported, doesn’t it?
The sheer amount of bias and distortion at work in the modern media landscape is astonishing, and lots of us are partially or entirely unaware of it. This tendency toward deception appears in “objective” news reporting, marketing, online opinions, and even in college instruction.
Make yourself a smarter media consumer and sharpen up your critical media assessment skills. An ounce of skepticism will protect you from pounds of deception!
The example we laid out above was a case of bias expressed through the slanted omission of information because it runs contrary to the speaker’s preferred point of view. Another form of bias you must look out for is the conflation of opinions with objective reporting. This has become particularly rampant in the news media. In generations past, journalists considered it an important responsibility to keep editorial opinions well separated from fact-based reporting. This barrier has been all but erased today, and you must keep a constant vigil for opinions masquerading as facts in even the most trustworthy media.
There is a place for opinion-based reporting, however it should not be presented as fact. This is where The Doe comes to the fore – an anonymous blog where all articles are verified.
Here are a few widely-applicable suggestions that can help you distinguish between subjective opinion and objective truth. Protect yourself from disinformation and verify that you’re dealing with facts!
* Look for fair coverage of issues with different points of view. Exercise caution with media providers who refuse to discuss the difference between fact and opinion or discuss facts with those who hold opposing views. The use of personal attacks (name-calling, slander, etc) is usually a strong sign of an unbalanced and biased presentation.
* Take all information provided by candidates running for office with a grain of salt. Always remain aware of their vested interest in attracting your attention and your vote.
* Get your news from a variety of outlets with different political viewpoints. Not sure whether a given outlet leans left or right? Look at their history of election endorsements to get a good idea of their political stance.
* Always read footnotes and fine print, particularly in ads and marketing offers.
* As a general rule of thumb, keep in mind that something that sounds too good to be true usually is.
Whenever there’s an agenda at work, you can expect media outlets to add a positive or negative spin to the facts they give you. Media bias is becoming a bigger issue all the time, so you must exercise your critical reasoning skills and practice spotting bias! An ability to see the difference between fact and opinion is absolutely essential if you’re going to base your own beliefs and decisions on objective, trustworthy information.