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Is “the News” Making You Sick?

Is “the News” Making You Sick?

 

The news ain’t what it used to be. In fact, it’s changed, irrevocably. And more and more, people are simply opting out, because they’re sick of it. So what’s going on and what, if anything, can you do to get high quality news these days, to really know what’s going on in your community, your country and around the world?

Here are some scary facts about “the news”:

 

1. There Are Far Fewer Journalists These Days:  For years, media outlets have been cutting back on their news resources – specifically on high quality journalists, because those guys tend to be very expensive. This trend has only been exacerbated as news outlets struggle financially, to come to grips with fragmentation, competition and the incredible disruption to their business models, arising out of all things digital.

2. Sources are Getting Very Dodgy Indeed: As a result, much of your “news” is being shadow-written by spin merchants, being paid large amounts of money, by powerful commercial interests who want their interests to be furthered by surreptitiously gaining, if not your approval, then your complicity through silence, disinterest, or both. It’s a straightforward fact that an increasing proportion of the so-called news in your paper or the nightly news bulletin is being fed to journalists by PR agencies being paid huge dollars, to slip them into the news cycle. While editors, stretched for resources, are only too happy to accept these “freebies”. If you don’t believe me, read some of the articles in today’s paper and ask yourself, “I wonder where that article about the lack of evidence between sugar consumption and obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease originated.” Hmm?!

3. Acute Competition and Technological Disruption are Resulting in Increased Sensationalisation and Spin: With the competition to grab a small slice of your attention span running white-hot (let’s face it, you have so many choices these days!) journalists are constantly having to play to their commercial reality – driven by metrics about readership, listenership, viewing audience, etc to fuel advertising revenue, which in turn is being drawn from an ever shrinking pool of funds as a result of fragmentation (they didn’t have to worry about the behemoths of Facebook advertising and Google AdWords even five years ago). So, even the real journo’s have to put some serious spin on things to grab your attention. My local newspaper (the Sydney Morning Herald) has a list of the most read articles at the bottom of the main news page on its website. It’d make you weep to see what, in the face of potential nuclear war, real economic and social issues, etc. – aka “the important stuff” – people are actually reading! Here are the top two “most read articles” in today’s edition:

#1 – The game should hang its head in shame over City-Country farce (rugby league)

#2 – Jacenko seen kissing ex-lover while husband Oliver Curtis still in jail

Really??!!! And this, from an allegedly serious, well-respected paper that’s been servicing its market for over a century.

Maybe we’re getting the news that we deserve, rather than the news that we need.

4.  Fake News: No, not everything you read in social media, or even on so-called news websites, is true. Fake news is a real thing. People just make things up to suit they’re agendas, tarting it up, making it sound credible, playing to people’s fears … and other people are believing it as truth. It’s changing whole countries. It’s a real thing and it’s a real worry. When was the last time you were duped into believing “fake news”? Answer? You have no idea. In fact sometimes you have to ask yourself, exactly where is the fake news coming from.

 

So the question is … what are we going to do about it?

 

Do we simply “tune out”? Do we just scroll endlessly through Facebook and cherry-pick the stuff we choose to believe, not really caring whether its true or not?

Charles Spurgeon once said “A preacher should have a Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other, ” meaning that we should have both the truth, and know what’s going on in the world, so that we can share the truth in a way that’s meaningful and relevant to people.

I wonder what he would say these days?

So with the world of news having changed irrevocably, here are ..

 

4 Tips To Help You Figure Out What’s Actually Going On … Through the News

 

Tip #1 – Filter out the Dross

The so-called news is made up of so much trivia and rubbish that it’s almost beyond comprehension. Really, the stuff that they’re passing off for news these days, a great deal of it just makes me want to puke!

Even if I knew who Jacenko, her ex lover and Oliver Curtis were (and, for the record, I don’t, nor do I care to) I certainly wouldn’t be interested in who is kissing whom, while whoever is in jail. Would you? The rubbish that news outlets trot out day after day, particularly the stuff that plays on our fears … who cares?!

So I have my dross-filter turned on and working in overdrive. When I read a headline and the first paragraph, or listen to the first few words, of an alleged piece of news, I ask myself “Does this deserve my attention?” If the answer is no … it doesn’t get my attention. Simple really. It’s like an unwanted, unsolicited phone call – just hang up, move on, ignore it. Or do you want this stuff, designed as it is to play on your fears, to drag you down? Really?!

You are what you eat … and for me, being discerning about the news that I consume, is incredibly important.


Tip #2 – Find Some Trusted Sources + Understand Where They’re Coming From

Even trusted sources these days can’t be trusted completely, for the very reasons outlined above. But some are more trustworthy than others. So these days, I’m searching out specific journalists, rather than just looking at the news outlet as a whole. People whom I can get to know and to trust, up to a point. The question is … where is that point?

So when I do find them, I try to understand where they’re coming from, beyond the broad-brush of “conservative” versus “left-wing”. What barrow is this journo pushing? What things matter to them? How does this colour their perspective on the news that they report?

Everyone has a perspective. You can’t help it. But it’s important for us to get to know and understand the perspective of the journo, so that we can know up to what point, and on what issues, we can trust them.

That’s why I deliberately source my news from multiple outlets – in particular, outlets that I know to have different biases and perspectives. That way I can think about the an issue from different angles, and make up my own mind.

It’s time to stop consuming the news without thinking. Those days are well and truly over and they are never, ever coming back.

Which leads me to my next point …


Tip #3 – Consume the News Critically 

No matter how driven or hard-working we are, most of us become fundamentally lazy when we plonk ourselves down in front of the box after a long day at the office, to watch the evening news. But that’s the very time that we can’t afford to let our guard down. Because the spin that I was talking about earlier, is everywhere.  Everywhere!!

And the language used by the journalists is a dead give away. Take this classic beat up:

The Prime Minister was forced today, to deny rumours of a leadership challenge.

Why was the PM forced to deny talk of a leadership challenge? Was it simply because the “journalist” who reported this alleged fact, asked the PM the question, which she duly answered? Nine times out of ten, that’s exactly why, because the journalist was trying to drum up a story to justify his or her existence, in a newsroom always looking to make cuts.

Test the language. Put it under a microscope. Is it a beat up? Is it a PR spin piece? Or is it a simple reporting of the facts (something, that in news, is all too rare these days). One could take that same alleged piece of news about a leadership challenge, and report it like this:

The Prime Minister today stared down talk of a leadership challenge amongst some back benchers, and re-exerted her influence over the party.

Spin is such a grand thing, isn’t it?!

Emotive language full of innuendo, colours our perception of the facts. Strip that rubbish away, get to the facts of the matter for yourself, and make up your own mind. Oh, and by the way, please do feel free to disagree with the journo’s spin.

Which brings me to my final point …


Tip #4 – Take Time to Digest the News and Formulate Your Opinions

The news – I mean, the important issues, post the filtering out of the dross – is something that I like to think about on an ongoing basis, because it helps me, in part, to shape my opinions, and ultimately, my world view (to the latter it is but one of several key inputs).

At the end of the day, I’m not so interested in what Donald Trump tweeted at 3 am this morning, as I am in what this piece of behaviour adds to my understanding of him as a leader and his likely impact on this world going forward.

Nor am I keen to dwell on the doom and gloom that someone is trying to drum up about the economy. (Parenthetically, I am clearly of the view that way too many people are letting too much of the spin and the dross play to their fears and poison their outlook. I believe that the news really is making these people sick.)

No, I want to stand back from the daily jumble of “news” and ask myself: So Berni, what does this all really mean? What’s it telling me? Where are things headed? What are people missing? What am I missing? To what extent is my self-interest driving my perceptions? How can I react and contribute in a way that makes things better rather than making them worse?

For instance, as I read of the to-ing and fro-ing about taxation and expenditure, over time, and as I’ve observed the blatant the pork barreling of one party over the other, I’ve come to the conclusion that, in Australia at least, we spend far too much of the public purse on middle class welfare to prop up high expectations of living standards (and hence, of course, the perceived electoral prospects of the particular party who, today, happens to be doing the pork barreling), resulting in an under-expenditure on essential public infrastructure which would serve to increase the capacity of the economic and stimulate sustained growth … not to mention a growing sense of selfishness and entitlement, rather than selflessness and sacrifice.

I’ve come to that conclusion by thinking about what I see and hear from my multiple sources over time. And I’m happy to share and debate those conclusions with people, to help formulate constructive responses to what’s going on in the world today.

But sadly, too often, our ideas about, for instance, public policy, are driven by raw self-interest, rather than what’s good for the economy as a whole, for the vulnerable and the under-privileged, for lifting the less fortunate up, and so on.

An old business colleague of mine (one of the smartest guys I’ve ever known) tells me how, many years ago, a teacher of his at school said to him: Lad, you sit and think, but mostly you just sit!

I confess, I think that’s what we do, way too often, when it comes to “the news”.

But then, those are just my ramblings. What do you think?

Leave a comment below and let me know!

 


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7 Comments

  1. Love the article and the thoughts it provoked. I have stopped watching mainstream news on free to air tv. I will watch a doco here and there on either ABC or SBS or an occasional show on 7, 9 or 10. But that is my limit. Even then I record it so I can zip through the commercials. I just cannot abide to watch any of them with the way the ads are nothing more than subliminal messaging or plain stereotyping of people to make others feel better about themselves.
    I have my favourite Journos on SKY and a few of the panel type talk shows and I enjoy a weekly magazine… THE SPECTATOR.
    I really enjoy discussing the latest topics with a couple of people at Church because they often have a different point of view. Or at least can offer a different take on the topic, which then gives me more to think about.
    I enjoy reading books by Journos too and composites.
    I will often listen to or read an opposing view just so I am not of only one perspective. Sometimes people cannot understand how I could read such an article, but my view is I like to have different views so I can make up my own mind, which is what you have articulated in your article.
    I now make it my business to find other sources of whatever I read and unless it can be verified or some parts of the article have been cited then I don’t want to know about it. As for the gossip columns/articles I just shake my head at the thought of how people can be taken in by them. I receive the daily Melbourne Herald Sun and there is rarely anything of interest on the front page. Instead I turn to a regular column and the OP ED. Yes, I even read the feedback page as I find some of the views interesting and others laughable.
    I can often pick up if a person agrees with any type of governmental policy if I know some of their life circumstances and if it serves their purpose. I get very cross when a person chooses to accept a political party policy if it suits them but is very damaging for the wider community, or if they like a Party on one policy but don’t agree with the rest of their policies but if it suits them they sell their souls. End of rant.
    All in all Berni, you are a Blogger I never get tired of. So keep up the good work and God bless.

  2. Bernie. As I see it there are a number of concerning factors that dictate how we the general public are fed the daily news, there is the ABC, the national carrier that is fully funded by the tax payer that has, as it’s agenda a move to brainwash us into becoming a more secular society, a society that should be more accepting and supportive of minority groups, in other words, overtime they will destroy the concept of multiculturalism that Australia has worked towards over a number of years, although it may have already passed it’s best before use by date.
    The reporters at the ABC are all unashamedly of the left wing variety which means there is no balance in their reporting. If the ABC cannot change this left wing balance and become a more centralist reporting organisation then it should stop wasting tax payers $ and be disbanded.

    Then we have Sky news with it’s populist opinionated news readers and reporters feeding us with their own take on how we should view the news. Like the ABC they want us to believe that their observations and interpretations of news items are the correct views, when in reality they are just as biased in their opinions as the ABC, the only difference is that Sky lean towards the right point of view while the ABC lean towards the left point of view. and neither can report honestly.

    As for the written media, newspapers and magazines etc, there are those that are to the left view and those to the right view, I stopped buying newspapers a long time ago, I think the newspaper/magazine industry will not be around in years to come, they will exist but not in hard copy, only on the internet.

    There are some reporters that I believe do try to give us the news as accurately as they can, but unfortunately I believe that some of their editorials support a bias towards their own personal beliefs and agendas and possibly the agendas of their advertisers.

    Then there is the issue of freedom of speech or the lack of it, there are obviously boundaries that we all must respect and observe, as we should respect each other, however I think that there is far too much emphasis put on what we can and cannot say, write or portray, for example Bill Leaks, who I think was a great cartoonist that drew the ire of all and sundry, when in what I think would have been his last cartoon he portrayed a young aboriginal boy in the hands of a aboriginal policeman asking the drunk aboriginal father if he new the boy, and he didn’t, Bill Leaks was highlighting the truth that exists in Aboriginal communities that we should be addressing the issues instead of just throwing money at the communities. And he was vilified and taken to task by the human rights commission, another organisation that should be disbanded because of it’s biased secular protectionist view point.
    Unfortunately Bill Leaks died and no doubt earlier than he should have because of the vitriol and threats that people including in particular the ABC and the left wing media made against him.

    Freedom of speech allows me as a Christian to be abused and threatened for my religious beliefs, while I am accused of being homophobic when I comment on the Islamic radicalism and segregation in Australia.

    More recently we have the turmoil on the Korean peninsular. The media in Australia and no doubt other countries are telling blatant lies when they state that America i.e. Donald Trump is escalating the problem with North Korea by installing a missile defence system in South Korea and sending a battle fleet to the Korean peninsular, so we are all told through the media that he is readying to attack North Korea. Yesterday I heard a verbal interview with Donald Trump and he was asked what his intentions were in Korea, Trump said that North Korea are an unknown quantity and that he had to protect South Korea, but that he wanted to create a dialogue with Kim Jong Ung to open discussion about resolving the situation. That blatantly contradicts the lies that all news media operations want us to believe about Trump. News media propaganda!! Hopefully Trump gets a relationship and dialogue going between himself the North and the South Koreans that improves the situation.

    Bernie I may sound like a pessimist but I am not. I am optimistic about life but only because I believe in the truth and I only get this from my belief in Father God and Jesus and their commandments of how I should live my life. I cannot change the world but I can hopefully influence others by my words and actions.

  3. nice, and confirms what I do 🙂

  4. Well I tend to think that even that “list of the most read articles at the bottom of the main news page” is in itself just spin, a fake list of the most read “news” because that’s the ‘stories’ that THEY want you to go to. There’ll be some product or other commercial reason that they want you to go there, not because those are the ‘top 10’ links that people are really going to.
    In other words, these days, you can’t trust anything on the web pages of even the main stream news outlets.

  5. I have beeen a Pastor for 40 years and now direct Mobile Christian Ministry in a country town in WA reaching out to other towns and a city.
    !) years of my ministry across thee nation and oversees was in fundrasing andd public relations at the top end of management in a number of mostly Christian organisations.
    I taught some of these things across the nation and I’ll tell you what!
    You have got it right ! the media is corrupt in many areas and trust is not a word that can be used.
    I learned to document every thing and getg it right.

  6. Berni, thanks, a refreshing perspective and good challenge. I think I have personally been spending too much time keeping in top of the news lately when there are other things I could be doing with that time that would have more impact. (Mark 13:31: Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.) Keep up your great work! Thanks, Chris

  7. I have known this for a while. We look at the person…remembering things (things we were told in the past about this person and the more famous, the more rubbish has been dished out about this person. And we believe because it was on ‘the news’ so it must be true!

    So we are then having this view of that person which is wrong and it is highly likely this will continue because all the rubbish will be dished up again.

    As a Christian I believe in this: We all make mistakes…AND we will be forgiven! But in this day we point the finger at what other people do wrong…and forget our own…consciously or not and then we hide! The media does this very well!

    I am not in the least interested in the person’s personal life but in what the person has to say. But as soon as that person starts to backstab or pointing finger I have the feeling that he or she is hiding something…not honest! This happens a lot in politics! That is not good, I know

    So I now I watch the news occasionally. That I do to keep myself sane. There are programs worth watching, I know but only seldom.

    Thank you for pointing this out in such a clear way. We need to understand better the whole picture.

    Kind regard,s Henny Vanderpol

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