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Information Processing - Getting the News in the 21st Century

Robin Olsen has lived for half a century. No experience is a bad experience unless we learn nothing from it.

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Taking it all in

Does the news get you down today? Does it all seem like so much flash in the pan? Remember when the news used to inform us of what was going on? That was some time ago now, wasn’t it?

In my lifetime I have seen the news transformed from a straight forward broadcast of relevant information into a Broadway side show complete with flashy props and actors instead of journalists. How did this happen?

The problem(s) with televised news networks

Well, one of the biggest problems today is the fact that news media outlets have to compete for ratings as if they were nothing more than a sitcom channel or a cartoon channel. A news outlet should never have to compete for ratings as this means they have to compete with entertainment products in order to stay on the air. This leads the outlets and networks to become flashier in their presentations and to exaggerate the stories themselves. It even leads to things like ‘crisis actors’ and simply made up stories, what we call fake news today. This destroys the trust in, and integrity of, the information being delivered. Who really knows what is real and what is not?

The second big problem actually stems from the first and that is the general public demand to be entertained while informed. Consider two potential newspaper headlines; one states that a 5 year old girl has gone missing but after an extensive search she is found alive and well, the other states the same girl but she is found dismembered in a trash bin. Which headline would sell more newspapers? The sad answer is the second one would.

When you combine this consumption pattern with the need to gain ratings in order to stay relevant and make a fair profit one can see the environment for fake news stories, and not just by the ‘big outlets’. It is a systemic corruption that has contaminated the public’s only real source for information.

The third big problem is government interference. I won’t delve too much into this topic as it is very complex, suffice it to say that all governments try to influence their media and most succeed.

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Protecting yourself from the madness

There are ways to combat this though, if not for ‘the truth’ then for no other reason than to keep your stress levels down and sanity intact. Simply turn off the television.

That is not as strange as it sounds. Televised news broadcasts use paid actors as anchors in order to help present the information in very specific and manipulative manners. It takes an actor, not a journalist, to do that effectively. One can see this by how often these ‘experts’ on networks such as FOX and CNN are called upon to appear in movies. 30 years ago one would never see an actual television anchor appearing in a Hollywood movie production but today it is common. Turn it off, at least for general news broadcasts and information, you can still keep it around for entertainment, that’s what it was meant for in the first place.

Instead of watching the news, read about it instead. All the big networks run their own websites with written versions of every big story and most even have local sections for news and information in your own area. By reading it instead of watching it you can avoid the glamour and glitz that the networks wrap their news broadcasts in and presents the information to you in a much calmer environment. The relevant videos are all on the websites as well (actual on the scene footage, not broadcasts) so they can be watched without the color commentary provided by the big network’s ‘team of experts’. It is far less stressful to get information this way than by visually absorbing it.

The internet also allows the public to read and review stories from a wide assortment of sources, both national and international, and one should definitely take advantage of that. Getting all your information from one source only leaves one open to being deceived and manipulated. The story you hear is never the ‘full story’.

Beware of Social Media 'news sources', social media is not a source of relevant information as none of those stories are source checked and many are blocked simply to help control specific narrative. Even ‘eye witness’ accounts and pictures posted on social media sites have been often times proven fake so it is important to choose one’s sources wisely.

There is more than one news source

I usually review all important stories in the press from at least 5 different websites. In the age of the internet, exclusives do not happen. So if a ‘big story’ only appears on one site then it is most likely a false story. Truly big stories will be covered from all angles, the rest are basically local stories that one should not get worked up about unless they live in that local, or they are fake or misleading. Stories do not have to contain false information to be fake, any story that is written in such a way as to elicit a negative emotional response should be treated as suspect. Most of those stories lack all the facts, or the facts have been exaggerated and/or are unproven, this is required to elicit the correct response.

So read the stories, don’t watch them and study all the angles and sources to get as close as one can to the truth of the matter. In the end remember that, unless you have the ability to research the validity of a story and it’s sources on your own (most of us do not have that ability) what you choose to believe or not regarding information coming from the media is an act of faith nothing more.

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This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

© 2022 Robin Olsen

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