Facebook....Twitter...political advertisements..news...opinions...what does it all mean?
I thought false advertising was illegal in this country. Apparently that only applies to goods and services. KFC can't tell you that their chicken is integral to a healthy diet. However, a political advertisement can say Bernie Sanders is actually a lizard covered in human skin....or Elizabeth Warren believes the earth is flat. Political advertisements fall under free speech, so the public needs to decide if they believe it or not. A scary thing these days. Facebook said this past week that they will continue to run political advertisements, however, Twitter will not. I am a fan of free speech, so I am not going to hold this against Facebook. I have many issues with them but this not one of them and will discuss in another piece. So how are people supposed to sort out this information free-for-all in the public spaces?
The Fourth Estate
I am a huge fan of a free press. I have lived in a country without it, and it's an uneasy feeling. Journalistic code of ethics state that news should be presented as factual without telling people what to believe. It should also be fair and balanced. Is there bias in news? Political leanings? Yes. It is unavoidable. What a critical thinker needs to know is to understand what the bias is and take it in to consideration. With very few exceptions, media are for profit enterprises, therefore, decisions are made with this in mind. What is printed or reported, where it is located, what is not printed or reported are all really business decisions. So where in today's world are we supposed to get this "fair and balanced" news?
Newspapers, either hard copy or online are a pretty good source of news. They employ fact checkers, have editors and generally adhere to journalistic code of ethics. They clearly distinguish between news and opinions. If factual errors are made they print corrections. Reporters are usually fired for ethics violations. Local and network news are also good places for factual representation of events. They also adhere to journalistic ethical standards and they differentiate between news and opinion pieces. As mentioned previously, there may be bias in these areas also. Your options are to recognize it, and take it in to consideration, or simply stop using it as a news source.
What about cable television..internet...etc?
I watch CNN, MSNBC and listen to National Public Radio. It's important, however, to differentiate between news and opinion. What is difficult now is that these cable stations tend to present news and opinions together, which makes it difficult to differentiate between the two. If journalists are ethical, and serving the public, we should be able to believe the news as fact. If a news organization misrepresents a fact, they are obligated to correct it. Expert opinions on the other hand are interesting, and I listen to them all the time, but they are just that; someone's opinion. The term 'fake news" is disingenuous at best, and inflammatory at worst. There are opinions that may be disagreeable to you but if you think a journalist or news outlet has the facts wrong then let them know.
Where you get your news is important. I would suggest a publication or news outlet that has fact checkers and editors who review their stories prior to release. Most newspapers and local and national network television news broadcasts fall in this category. I would not recommend getting news from pretty much anywhere else. Secondly, you need to differentiate between media news and opinions. Never the twain shall meet. Fox has had some issues in this area recently. It's fine to hear expert opinions on subjects you are interested in, but then formulate your own. Third, if you are really interested in a topic, go to multiple sources. Primary sources are the best, but most of us have to depend on whatever we can find. Just research the topic and don't believe one source. Fourth, if you enjoy listening to expert opinions and talking heads all day that is fine. I find a lot of it interesting, however, don't confuse this with news. Lastly, I would not recommend any sort of news compiler or service that provides you "news feeds". It sounds good, but someone is deciding what you see and don't see.