We are at an interesting crossroads. Fact or opinion, truth or lies … they are too often conflated. Media transparency seems more important than ever, but hardly as apparent as most of us would like.
Don’t those news organizations simply choose the “facts” that support the narrative that reinforces the conspiracies that keep their viewers clicking on? It sure feels that way, at times.
Trump. Pelosi. MacConnell. Fake news. Branded content. Yellow journalism. Maher. Colbert. The View. FOX News. CNN. MSNBC. BuzzFeed. The Onion. Breitbart. Yikes!
Is there any way to find transparency or truth in media? Or, is all media biased in one way or another making it our responsibility to be informed and aware?
Last summer, the Pew Research Center surveyed 5,035 U.S. adults to assess whether people can recognize news as factual (something that is capable of being proved or disproved by objective evidence) or opinion (something that reflects the beliefs and values of whoever expressed it).
The results? Well, it depends. And, you guessed it, it puts the onus back on us.
The study’s results indicate that a majority of Americans, when distinguishing between fact and opinion, get 3 out of 5 right. Turns out this was only slightly better than random guesses. About a quarter of Americans – called “average” American – picked wrong all or most of the time.
Not to worry, though, because the “unaverage” Americans, those who are politically aware, digitally savvy and who place high levels of trust in the media, nailed it. They were better able to distinguish between fact and opinion.
So, I guess your outspoken aunt, who seems to really follow the news and always has her face in her phone checking news sites, is an expert after all. Well, at least she’s an expert about the news that she consumes.
There are other resources available online that can help sort out liberal from conservative news and hint at which outlet tries to play it down the middle.
Allsides.com is one such resource. Here’s what they say about themselves on their website: “The AllSides team includes people from every side of the political aisle and in between. So far, no food fights have erupted. We’re also transparent about our biases, partners and funding sources.” You have to admit, when an online resource names names and reveals who they hang with, that sure feels transparent.”
Also, check out their Media Bias Ratings. News outlets are rated as L–L–C–R–R (far left, left, center, right and far right). Opinion is rated separately from news. For example, the Wall Street Journal (online news only) is rated “C” while the WSJ (opinion) is rated “L.” CNN (opinion) is rated “L” while CNN (online news only is rated “L.”
If all media is biased one way or the other (and I think most of us think that is true), and you don’t want to depend on that one outspoken aunt’s spin on the daily news, maybe you do need to spend a little time sorting it out.
Imagine that, in an era when media transparency is wanting, and when information has never been more available, we actually need to spend a little time informing ourselves. Maybe it’s not about them, but about us.
Those crazy Founding Fathers. Maybe they actually knew what they were doing in Philadelphia when they started our Constitution with the words, “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union …”.