There certainly isn’t a shortage of topics for blogging in the world of politics. My intention as I write, is to be as open as possible. I have my own political leanings but I am just as apt to criticize those in my camp as I am for those in the other camp. Today I would like to consider a broader topic that spans all political opinions and contributes much to the troubles we are having today with misinformation. I am talking about 24 hour news stations.
The first station that was designed to report news all day and night was CNN, founded in 1980 by Ted Turner. Discerned by conservatives to be too liberal, Fox News was founded by Rupert Murdock in 1996. Since then, several others have come along. Having news being reported continually for 24 hours under one umbrella leads to a number of problems that have been recognized but are rarely acknowledged as people listen.
The first problem is that moderators have the challenge of filling time with comment and discussion. This can be a good thing as it enables them to look more deeply into issues with comments by experts, eye-witnesses, and supporting stories. Unfortunately, those brought in to do such deepening are not always experts and often give misinformation. Frequently these people give their own opinions rather than information based on history, science, or inside knowledge of a situation. It is about filling the time when there is not enough material available.
The second problem is the race to report. So often a story is reported before all the facts are in. Even when corrections are made, viewers are left with incomplete or false information that they heard first and never got the update. Social media becomes the perfect platform to pass on the misinformation.
A third problem which I believe is more recent is that there is no correcting done before putting information out. In the name of freedom of speech, misinformation and lies are allowed. To screen information before it is released in the media would be considered a form of government control. I believe that some news agencies are better at checking their facts before sharing them with the public, but ordinary viewers have no way of knowing this.
Finally Americans are not well educated about history, world affairs, economics, or legislation. We depend on our leaders and those more educated than we are to guide us. When we elect our officials we assume they are better informed than we are and that they will act with good will on our behalf. We are at the mercy of newscasters to do their research to be sure that what they report is accurate.
These are some of the challenges of any 24 news station. The problem of bias is another whole issue but it is not related to having too much time to fill. Bias is to be expected as we all look at the world through different lenses. In fact, good moderators of news shows will often select people with different views to better educate their audience. These individuals should be experts in their fields, however, not angry Joe-blows-off–the-street to makes the show more lively.
I am not sure what can be done. The advantage of 24 news reporting is that any American can tune in at any time to catch up on the news. This, in theory, should result in a more educated, better informed populace. Leaders in media are being challenged to figure out how to keep misinformation or lies from being introduced and spread.
My only suggestion is that we each take responsibility for how we take in our news, (use fact check) that we are skeptical even of those in our own camps. I try to use opportunities to point out misinformation when I see it posted on Facebook. I will correct people with discussing politics out in the community. I have occasionally written letters to the newspaper. I use my blog. I like to think there are experts out there with ideas that would not violate the freedom of speech but would control misinformation that causes harm to our society.