Information is omnipresent, and thanks to technology, it is easy to access. We no longer depend on our morning newspapers to learn about the events occurring in the world. We can read, watch, or listen to the news whenever and wherever we want. In fact, it is almost impossible not to be bombarded by news. But despite the increase in news accessibility, many people do not have accurate information. This isn’t because news outlets are not doing their jobs; it is precisely because they are doing their jobs that we are in this perplexing predicament.
You are surrounded by tools that news outlets use to manipulate you daily: your phone, your computer, and your television. You can view whatever news source you want. News sources know this, so they are constantly competing for your attention. They may exaggerate news stories to encourage you to read them. They may disregard important news that could disinterest readers. And, most shockingly, they could even fabricate news stories just to grab your attention.
But news writers, particularly blog writers, are not evil people that just desire to create misleading stories. They, like all of us, depend on paychecks to keep them alive. They have jobs to do, and that job is to manipulate you.
“Manipulate” in this sense means to sell you something, a product or idea, or to convince you to behave in certain ways that will help the news outlets earn money. Some blogs try to “sell” political beliefs, such as liberal or conservative news. Others just want you to click on the articles and view the advertisements that will pay the writers. They do this by producing as many articles as possible, especially ones that are controversial. This is a demanding job. It gives writers only a short amount of time to research their news stories, which causes many of them to turn to smaller blogs with questionable credibility for news or inspiration. This news, if it is “juicy” enough, spreads anyway, because people on the internet seldom check the credibility of their sources. It consumes too much time, and people desire speed.
This goes against our desire to be an informed public. We need to be informed to be part of a flourishing democracy. So how do we convince news writers to give us the news that we need?
It’s simple. News writers will give us what we want because we will click on the articles we want to read. We need to show them that what we want is news that will help us make proper decisions, not entertaining rumors and false stories. If we read real stories from credible news sources and avoid the temptation to click on sketchy articles, news writer will get the message.
There are a few ways you can determine which sources are credible. Before reading an article, click on the author’s profile. Does the author have a degree that relates to the content of the article? Is the author knowledgeable about the topic? If not, where did the author get his or her sources from? Make sure the author cites sources that you trust. After that, check for bias. If the article is too right leaning or left leaning, then it is likely that they are leaving out certain information to convince you to agree with their point.
Information is worth nothing if it is not correct. Don’t let false news mislead you or your leaders. Take responsibility and make sure your sources our credible. Our democracy will thank you.
Trust Me, I’m Lying by Ryan Holiday
Practical Media Literacy by Nick Pernisco