Protecting Yourself From Media Lies

The poor quality of most televised and print journalism in the U.S. is an issue that is even more concerning as a presidential election draws nearer.  And so I wrote the blog featured today on Huffington Post about how that kind of coverage will influence the campaign of Hillary Clinton, should she decide to run.

Whenever anyone writes about Clinton, other important points in the article are ignored by many who feel compelled to disparage her.  That’s to be expected as Hillary Clinton generates angst — far more and far more intense than a woman of her extensive contributions to her country warrant.  In the context of reason and debate, such disdain has no place.  The primary issue of how the press is already and will be handling her campaign is important, not just to her, not just to women, but to democracy.

It’s only by obtaining accurate information, to the extent possible, that people can make informed choices.  Resorting to cheap shots, twisting of the facts, poisoning of wells, and other underhanded forms of influence are less likely to occur and catch on in cultures where more than “some people say” journalism is the status quo.  Yet, that’s what is most common in the U.S.

Having studied persuasion, influence and politics all of my career, I’m concerned.  It used to be that you could expect junk journalism from sensational rags.  Now, standards for superb journalism have given way to demands for profit.  Who loses?  The voter trying to make an educated decision.  It falls to each of us then to bring to the forefront of our minds when ingesting information whether that source can be trusted — not whether their writers agree with us.

Being even adequately informed is a tall order now days.  With so much polarization and overt disdain among our leaders, once considered unprofessional, the 24 hour news and entertainment cycle and an absence of vigilance on the part of viewers, we are at risk of being duped — often.  We all need a little voice inside our heads, that we teach to our children, asking, “How credible is this source?”  In persuasion study this is referred to as generating counterarguments.  Essentially, being wary of one’s sources involves forming counterarguments when what we’re hearing or reading lacks adequate support and yet is passed off by media owners as “news” rather than free-flowing opinion.  There’s nothing wrong with the latter, so long as we recognize it as such.

This is all common sense.  Yet, it’s uncommonly applied.  We need to change that for our own good.

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