Flow of information is inherently central to our lives. We access a variety of mediums that facilitate passive learning such as the television, Internet, and so on. These mediums can even be accessed via smartphone. This fact alone is amazing; we are shaping the flow of information by constantly inventing devices and applications that helps enable this process. By doing this, we are finding it easier to access information that we could use to learn and to educate others. However, not all information is authentic. The television is always on throughout America, and many of these television sets are tuned to either FOX News or CNN.
These television giants are precisely the epitome in journalism failures. They are not reporting news from a neutral point of view, and are also trying to re-frame news in such a way that appeals to a target demographic.
Have you ever seen a Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly show? These so-called pundits frequently roll up their sleeves to scream at something that they really hate, like atheists or pro-choice advocates. They frequently serve up snide remarks that undermine the integrity of many people, and they are also the people who pass all of that misinformation into the heart of America.
CNN is not any better; their website and television channel are both designed to give you that “journalistic integrity” look. The staff is even designed to add to that whole aesthetic. Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper and so on? Hey, don’t get me wrong. CNN is popular here on the campus. Like some of you, I used to place blind trust in CNN until one particular incident.
They had people come on CNN that actually suggested the brilliant idea of the United States of America launching a nuclear missile at Deepwater Horizon during the BP oil spill incident. Let that sink in for a moment. A nuclear missile sent right into the facility and essentially the oil spill. The “scientist” reasoned that the nuclear missile would instantly wipe out all of the oil, while leaving damage that could be regenerated easily by nature on its own. Absolutely, absolutely, what a fabulous idea!
Oh, and don’t forget that every time a celebrity dies or a football team wins Super Bowl; their photos are plastered all over both websites’ front pages. And then I have to endure the Facebook posts. It’s a terrible world we live in.
How does a news source achieve legitimacy? Well, for starters, it really helps a lot when you’re not a for-profit corporate giant. Because this means that you are watching a perspective produced by an entity that values profits over human lives. This also means that all kinds of distractions are added to the daily ingestion of news: sports, entertainment, Jersey Shore, Justin Bieber, and so on.
CNN, for example, belongs to Turner Broadcasting, which is in turn owned by Time Warner. Time Warner is a media conglomerate that owns HBO, Cartoon Network, Warner Bros., and et cetera. They also own several magazines: Fortune, Life, Sports Illustrated, and Time. In other words, you are essentially experiencing the process of information from only one source in all of these mediums. Their business is profits; therefore, they will naturally seek ways to exploit their properties for more money.
Secondly, it also helps if you focus on the essentials. The essentials being our economy’s disasters, the Occupy streets, the pharmaceutical companies’ grip on the American psyche, political corruption in the Congress, and so on. Irrelevant news are nice to read, but they’re just that: irrelevant, and only a momentary distraction. Unfortunately, the irrelevant news often turns out to be bigger than they’re supposed to be.
Instead of reading about ways that we could use to help alleviate our economical woes on CNN or Fox News, we are actually reading about the “funniest” Occupy Wall Street signs or about Florida prosecutors trying to get a court to place a 12 years old boy in prison for a murder of his two-year-old brother. Our news is full of non-sequiturs and death; it’s like we’re living in an information culture where death is more important over progress.
Now you furrow your eyebrows and ask me: “But, Zane, since Fox and CNN sucks, how do I get my news?”
Let me point you to the National Public Radio (NPR). President Lyndon B. Johnson created this media organization when he signed the Public Broadcasting Act in 1967. NPR is a non-profit organization that is publicly and privately funded. Being non-profit requires NPR to invest all of its profits into a better infrastructure, or humanitarian ventures. Basically, NPR does not value the dollar over news, since it has no way of expanding its profits via the stock market.
That fact combined with the power of the Internet should be enough to justify picking NPR over the media conglomerates. But wait, let’s just go and look at their website: www.npr.org. Already, you can see that their design is very clean and easier on the eyes than the flashy, supposedly professional stuff that Fox and CNN throws at you.
What about the content? There are only four categories: news, arts & life, music, and special series! Wow! Let’s ignore the last three categories and focus on the news. As of October 20, the featured article was titled “Why Is College So Expensive?” Looking at the sidebar next to the featured article, we can see that the news are about the debate on immigration between Romney and Perry, the 48-hour strike in Greece, a massive animal escape from a preserve in Ohio, and so on.
Amazing. And it’s not hard to browse NPR, really. Use Google Reader and Twitter to subscribe to them on your smartphone. Just remember this: use your brain to filter out irrelevancy and bias. Focus on the essentials. It’s there, and you should be looking. You can make a difference in the world, but only with factually correct information.