Fake News Or Just Meaningless News?

News Or Commentary?

In my adolescent and teen years through high school, there were 15-minute evening news broadcasts on network radio and TV [ABC, CBS and NBC — no cable back then], and in any particular town like mine, one or maybe two newspapers — and of course, no internet. Generally speaking, I guess, the myriad sources of news nowadays would be viewed as progress from that time, but as I access the sources I follow for news, I wonder about that. I find it increasingly difficult to find content that is what actual news is supposed to be — simple factual reporting about events of the day.

I remember well when evening news broadcasts went to 30 minutes, ushering in the addition of commentary. Initially, there was a fairly clear shift within each program from news to commentary, so if your main interest was just in news, you could still get most if not all of it in the first half of the program. At some point, that shift became less clear. Then came cable, then [not necessarily just because of cable] news programs expanded to an hour, with more and more commentary that was less and less distinguishable from “just the facts” reporting. Then came the internet, and … well, here we are.

I have mentioned in a previous post that in order to get a full picture of any given situation, one has to consider at least two if not several sources, and from everything gathered during that process, decide for him/herself what constitutes “just the facts” [see News [or NNTN?] Circa 2017]. A complicating factor in doing that effectively are two troubling facts:

    1. “Journalism” doesn’t mean today what it did decades ago because the overwhelming majority of today’s “journalists” received their education from liberal schools, and they are heavily biased toward liberal views.
    2. 90 percent of U.S. media is controlled by six corporations [see this Link to Source]. We can logically assume that they are driven by at least two factors that bring into question their objectivity: 1) their responsibility to their shareholders to maximize profits; and 2) the worldview of their top leadership [i.e., the context within which these leaders make decisions about what does and does not make it into their publications and broadcasts].

Half Full Or Half Empty?

Practically everybody is familiar with the meme about two people looking at the same glass that is filled to the half-way point with water [one sees a half full glass; the other sees a half empty glass]. Let’s use that metaphor in context with the two complicating factors mentioned above to describe “news” reporting of President Trump’s actions so far, the Cabinet he has appointed, and what he says in speeches [and of course, in Tweets!].

If you view the “glass” [the Trump presidency] as half empty, that will be the focus of your fact-searching and analysis and phraseology; if you view it as half full, then that will be the focus of your fact-searching and analysis and phraseology. You can go to almost any article in liberal newspapers such as the New York Times, or watch almost any “news” program on liberal channels such as CNN, to see the overwhelming bias against Trump [overwhelming because there are so many more liberal outlets than conservative outlets].

A classic example [out of many] of half-empty reporting just this week was in the 2/22/17 coverage of new DHS immigration procedures announced 2/21. On the 2/21pm Fox News program, the emphasis was on the fact that the focus of the procedural announcement was simply on enforcing existing laws [i.e., on just what was done, not on whether it was good or bad or on what might — in somebody’s opinion — happen]. In the 2/23 USA Today paper, the bold headline was “Millions could be deported”, and the article was focused on that [which was largely conjecture, but the article made no effort whatsoever to interject that qualifier].

Another example of half-empty reporting was Trump’s repudiation of anti-Semitic vandalism [of headstones in a Jewish cemetery] and rhetoric lately during his recent visit to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. USA Today’s headline [representative of headlines in many other liberal outlets] was “Trump too late on hate, critics say”, and the article focused on that rather than on Trump’s actual remarks.

Just Ignore It?

Here’s an idea.  … I believe much of this kind of “news” would die away quickly [because there would be no “controversy” to drive headlines] if all Administration officials decided to just refuse to participate in interviews where trivial questions are being focused on, responding with “We’ve decided to quit wasting time on media-conjured ‘issues’ … I’d be happy to discuss progress, plans, policy, etc., if you’d like to get into those kinds of questions. Otherwise, I need this time for more productive work”.

Something I mentioned briefly in a post some time back was the very astute observation of Peter Thiel  who said during the final few weeks of the 2016 campaign “The media takes Trump literally but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously but not literally” … e.g., on the Southern border wall. If the liberal media could come to grips with that reality, then that, too, would diminish if not eliminate all the foolish word-chasing going on.

The thirst of liberal media analysts for “issues” with Trump is causing them to miss the main themes behind what he is doing and saying — i.e., they find a detail to pounce on and get into the weeds of that detail to create a “story” which they then print and broadcast until everybody dreads even hearing any more about it.

A great example is all the hype over the Executive Order on tightening the immigration screening processes. Coverage was focused on details within the order, causing the main point President Trump made during all that flack to be lost in the “noise” — i.e., that we don’t know if terrorists are merging in among refugees, and we need to know. The emphasis on the fact that no terrorist attacks have been from those 7 countries has completely overshadowed that very important point.

And it’s not just that we don’t know the potential magnitude of the threat of actual domestic terror activity. A USA Today article today [2/24/17] exposed the fact that at least five European nations have learned that they have accidentally paid taxpayer-funded welfare benefits such as unemployment funds, disability pensions and housing allowances to Islamic State militants who have used the money to wage war in Iraq and Syria [Click here for article]. {The nations are Denmark, Sweden, France, Belgium and Great Britain.}

So … when accessing “news”, keep in mind that, in the spirit of caveat emptor [let the buyer beware], it’s caveat lector/auditor/visorum [let the reader/listener/viewer beware]!

img_7026 Charles M Jones

Charles M. Jones

Author: Charles M. Jones, PE, CPA

[retired — neither license active]

13 thoughts on “Fake News Or Just Meaningless News?”

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