Having lots of time after retirement, frequently I venture down paths less well traveled and feel obligated to share my findings with others. Today, I started to copy and paste actually news stories in this observation, but because of copyright laws and time-patience of my audience, decided to not. I will cite sources and you can look them up yourself.
Journalism 201 taught me that media provide three types of information: fact, opinion and advertisement. The factual content should include who, what, when, where, why and sometimes how. Content-oriented fact writers should include adjectives and adverbs sparingly because these tend to be subjective opinions. Opinion should be separate from fact and labeled as such. Advertisements, paid for to support fact gathering and dissemination, can be fact, opinion or propaganda.
In today’s brave new world, it is increasingly difficult to separate fact from opinion, propaganda or fiction. This stuck me broadside when I read about Trump’s recent visit to Parkland, Florida.
The “who” of this story was Trump, first responders, medical personnel, victims and families.
The “what” was a shooter at a school and aftermath, including a visit to one hospital caring for victims.
The “when”was Saturday, February 17, 2018.
The “where” was Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in the Miami metropolitan area, and a Broward County hospital, Broward Health North.
The “why” was protocol to show sympathy and appreciation toward victims, victim families and hospital support personnel.
As I read source after source, because I subscribe to a broad political spectrum of news feeds, I began to feel I was looking at two contrasting scenarios, populated by two different kinds of people, one supportive and the other critical.
This peaked my curiosity to see how widespread different reactions were. My preferred search engine is ixquick because it promises no tracking. When I typed in my search criteria: Trump, Parkland, Hospital visit, I found what I sought: liberal, conservative and somewhat impartial to news stories. I read many of the thousands provided. Purported bias from search engines next prompted me to look at this same search criteria from a number of other resources: yahoo, bing and google. Not surprisingly, I found indications of both covert and obvious bias. Most lists started with mainstream and local press and you had to get down into the weeds to find Occupy Democrats or The Daily Caller. This is important to know because few of us look at the last items from lengthy searches and are most likely only to read and be informed by those we see first.
Bing-654,000 results, Google-No number of results and no number of pages, Ixquick-
Seven pages of results and including both mainstream and alternative media,
Yahoo- 653,000 results
I chose four sources for my observation examples:
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/16/us/politics/trump-parkland.html (The most mainstream of all mainstream media)
http://washingtonpress.com/2018/02/18/trump-said-spend-sunday-respecting-dead-heres-hes-instead/ ( a liberal news service whose masthead states, “Washington Press is a political news website dedicated to providing our readers the most accurate, concise, and breaking political news of the day.”
I also include my favorite Russian source for an example of actually the most factual and least opinionated coverage, in my opinion.
The reason I find this alarming and worth commentary is because I am comforted when reading some sites and discomforted by others. Furthermore, I am finding it more and more difficult to separate fact from fiction when few stories I read stick to the who, what, when, where and why, enabling me to draw my own conclusions. Yes, I react favorably to stories that fit my preconceptions and feel hostile to other sources and writers, but am I doing myself any favors? What if what makes me uncomfortable actually is true?
Am I on the side of angels or fooled by the devil? Obviously both interpretations can not be truthful.
I must be forced to conclude that media today have chosen sides and a new mission is to divide a once united people into splinter groups, each convinced they are right and becoming unwilling to even tolerate another side’s position.