In a talk about Journalism and News Literacy*, Howard Schneider, who is the dean of the School of Journalism at Stony Brook University, shared some of his experience about the way we consume news today. I share this with you so we will begin this wonderful new 2014 with a more self aware reading and information exchange.
One of the biggest problems in the digitalized era we live in is information. There is too much information and very little screening of that information. Blogs, News reports online, TV, Facebook, Twiiter, we are flooded with information, reports and rumors that in the end of the day we are left with selected information which in many cases we pass it along.
First of all, most of us will forget the source within 72 hours. We will not be able to say where a certain information we have is originated, whether a blog, TV news, an Internet article, facebook etc. Actually, some will most likely confuse the source with a higher ranking one to give the information more credibility.
Second, we are all experiencing what today in social psychology we call Confirmation Bias, or the Sleeper effect. Meaning we have an obvious Bias toward a piece of information that will confirm our preconceived notion about life, reality, moral, valor etc. There is an interesting example with a news report that was spread on the Internet as true about a guy (a certain New York proofreader George Turklebaum) that was found dead on his desk 5 days after his time of decease. Almost all people believe it because they actually believe it can happen in their work place (“where is this world going” etc.).
There are many more disturbing facts and examples about our daily habit as to how we consume information. Here are 12 ways to be a vigilant news consumer according to Schneider:
1 – Always know what news neighborhood you´re in.
2 – In the news neighborhood differentiate the news from opinions.
3 – Follow a story over time.
4 – Evaluate sources.
5 – Always ask: did the reporter actually verified the information or is relying on rumors?
6 – On the Internet, rank and popularity do not necessarily mean credibility.
7 – Choose multiple news brands.
8 – Be open to information that challenges your own biases and assumptions.
9 – Don´t judge the news media on the basis of one news outlet or story. Don´t judge one outlet on the basis of one mistake, look for patterns.
10 – Be an aggressive news consumer. It is hard work.
11 – In the digital age, we are all distributes of information.
12 – Make time for the news.
Also, a good point is to cross reference with multiple sources. This is essential to more accurate information. Cross references, like any historical event that want to be considered as closer to the truth, is where the biases of the reporter, editor and news source get diminished (of course not completely gone). Especially when it is from different sources that are from both side of political opinion, different languages, different countries etc. Personally, I have been reading newspapers from 4 different countries in the past 3 years and I have to say that the experience is sometime incredible seeing how news is distorted to fit the newspaper political opinion.
To a well informative and aware trispectivist this process will be much easier to do, for the news is simply the interaction between the individual All and the universal All. Thus, while recognizing this constant interaction, we, as the individuals, are aware that the information we receive is how we perceive the universal, and not necessarily a good mirror of what it is really is. The more we are sure in our “certainties” and truths, the less effective the interaction with the universal will be, leading to a more biased receptors from our part (if you happen to have Trispectivism at hand, I will refer you to the part about communication in page 235).
And lastly, for a useful tool to discard rumors and myth in the Internet, Schneider offers this website?
http://snopes.com/ – the definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation. Use the search box to locate your item of interest.
* Watch Schneider’s full conference – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rv4YgX5udlM
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!!!!!