I’ve made a short guide to the news media to anyone who feels their blood rising when watching, reading, or listening to the news. I am not talking about conservative news outlets or liberal news outlets, I’m talking about all news outlets.
- The news media is not interested in portraying groups representatively. They are only interested in outliers, exceptions, dissidents, and authority figures.
- The news media create quotes for you and then seek your approval, hopefully. It makes their stories flow better, but should be taken with a grain of salt.
- The news media, like all of us, is inherently biased. Just as historians cannot help but telegraph their view of the world in the facts they choose to present, journalists color their facts through editing, selection, and tone. The idea of an impartial media is a relatively recent invention. Newspapers were born out of partisanship, as party organs, and attempts to make them more objective have had a mixed record. Bias isn’t inherently bad, as long as it is understood by the audience. The way a story is portrayed says as much about the teller as it does about the story itself.
- The news media loves emotionally charged subjects. They make you watch, read, or listen longer, which means they can sell more ads. Your news about GM’s auto recalls are probably brought to you by GM’s advertising department.
- The news media love to talk about themselves. Expect stories about persecuted journalists to take precedence over any similar story involving anyone else. Many of us love what we do and many of us think it’s important to society, but few of us have a microphone.
There you have it, Noah’s guide to the news media.