Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sensationalism, Rabble Rousing & Misleading Headlines

What has happened to good news reporting? It seems that most anything you read today is suspect. It can’t be trusted or the facts are skewed. The media today seems more intent on selling advertising than in reporting accurate and informative newsworthy subjects. To get your attention they use misleading headlines and sensationalism that can sometimes lead to rabble rousing by those buying into the printed word.

This was my concern when I read the article that I spoke about in my last post. I carried the discussion into an on-line forum for feedback. It is possible that I was preaching to the choir, but there were many interesting points of view, and even a few I hadn’t considered. One of these comments related to newspaper and online reporting. One person noted that there was no side-bar with follow-up information or facts to support or refute the claims in the article. Another mentioned a study which shows people do not read the entire article but only the first few lines. This is the point that concerns me the most. Too many people ask me “did you see the headlines today!” With that, they have learned all they need, never reading the story to learn the details.

Earlier this month I saw this headline in the local paper: “Firm says McCain could die in office.” This particular headline preys on the fears of voters. Do I have to lay them out in detail? Maybe you support McCain and have reservations about Palin. Maybe you like Palin and find this headline encouraging for the advancement of women in politics. Maybe you were undecided and seeing this headline figured you should vote for someone younger and healthier. The list goes on.

If you took time to read the story, you find that the Atlanta based firm that specializes in individual life and health expectancies predicts McCain would die in his SECOND term if elected. Buried at the end of the article, we find that this would be the case for the population as a whole if statistics only were used. However, in McCain’s individual case, his health being better than the average man for his age, the likely hood is reduced even further. However, considering the newspaper I was reading leans to the left, I would say their work here was done when they printed the headline. Especially considering they know only too well that people don’t read through an article.

Or how about the woman who spoke at a McCain rally claiming Obama was an Arab and a terrorist? This woman bought into the propaganda that due to a relative having Muslim ties, by default Obama and bin Laden are buddies. Gee, using that logic, since I was raised Catholic; I must be Italian and therefore a member of the Mafia.

This is also another point to consider. When watching the news or reading a paper it is always wise to understand the political leaning of the network or publication. You are spoon fed the news in a biased fashion and only shown that which they want you to see. Take for instance if you only watch cop shows. You will soon believe that there is no one to trust in this world. Since my cell phone along with 20 others and a woman’s purse with $400 was turned in when lost at King Richard’s Faire, I realize there are more honest people in the world than we know.

So where can one get unbiased reporting? I don’t believe we can find any. You have to listen to that which you agree with and that which you don’t. Someplace in the middle is the real truth. You may even have to dig around on your own to find it. If we know something is blatantly false, if is our responsibility to correct the misinformation. The let sleeping dogs lie theory does not work for me. The false information perpetuates, and soon, like urban legends, the world is believing it true.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hmm, guess it's a good thing i don't bother reading the newspaper. It takes too long. I can see your point that people are misled by headlines. How much time do you really have in the morning to completely absorb all the info before you have to head off to work? Just as long as it takes to drink a cup of coffee!?! I say don't bother. If you're really concerned about an issue, take the time to do your own research.