Do You Choose Your News?

Jay Cole image

Humor is our most enjoyable form of truth.

An Informal Survey for News Consumers
Circle the most correct response.

A) Hillary’s a crook, Trump’s a malignant narcissist, and Obama screwed an entire caboodle of pooches.

B) Today’s journalists report only the facts.

C) I watch the news while making love.

NOTE 1: Don’t worry about answer ‘C’. The television news anchor is not really looking at you…much.

In actuality, this survey has no correct answer.

One of the major problems our modern society faces is news tailored to our likes and dislikes. (That’s thumbs up and thumbs down if you’re a millennial.) Today, every click of the mouse or the remote control brings us a steady diet of what we desire, not what we need to know.

Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and Fox “News” are using advanced metrics and algorithms to shamelessly pander to our desires, however, realistically, can these companies be faulted for seeking happy, ill-informed news consumers? After all, happy customers are the direct route to increasing quarterly profits, even if, every year, they lose a few ill-informed customers who mistake tsunami warning sirens for unusually loud bird calls.

Perhaps, we as consumers are at fault. We WANT entertaining news—stories and opinions that we find agreeable. Ergo, the market does indeed respond.

Consider, The Haagen-Dazs Example:

Desire: Ask any five year-old: “What would you like for dinner, roast beef and broccoli, or chocolate ice cream?”

Market Response: Every ice cream manufacturer produces chocolate, often in many varieties. Let’s assume that these companies are responding to your children’s desires.
(Wink! Wink!)

Our News Choices
If you want to start a very interesting conversation, ask someone where they get their news, and more importantly, why. For the last week, I tried asking complete strangers about their news source and I learned two things:

  1. Most people choose biased news sources.
  2. Some women will call the police on you in a heartbeat!

Today’s Bias and BS
Ideally, television, newspapers, and the internet should keep us informed, with one obvious caveat:

If you get your news from social media, at least consider upgrading to tabloids. You owe it to the aliens in Area 51.

Unfortunately, many of today’s news services are only marginally better. Journalism is no longer simply a fact-finding profession; it’s an acting job, or a public relations job, or a propagandist job. Not that acting, PR and ‘lying scum’ can’t be considered professions, but most media consumers already know where to find entertainment mixed with unrealistic claims. For example, we watch cooking shows which use exotic, unpronounceable ingredients and fine wines that cost more than mom’s hip replacement.

News—real news—is an entirely different animal.

Theoretically, what people should want is fact-based news that informs us on the issues of the day. Entirely separate from the facts, please provide relevant, diverse and astute analysis and opinions. More and more, this appears to be the unicorn of the 21st century.

NOTE 2: Even though it may appear so, mentioning “relevant, diverse and astute” as positive attributes was not a Trump slam.

Yet Another Cheap Off-the-Cuff Test
Ask ten random people: “Which actor or actress is your favorite, and why?” Then, ask them, “Who is the US Secretary of State, and what’s he done lately?”

The likely responses will be similar to:

  1. “I love Hollywood stars, and I know a lot about famous people who have no real impact on my life.”
  2. “I know absolutely nothing about the Cabinet Member who is daily representing me and the entire country in international affairs, including trade, war, peace, etc.”
  3. “Damn, hearing aid batteries!”

Okay, we’ll let number three off the hook.

Book Cover image


Reliable News – It’s A Scavenger Hunt
Don’t be overly distressed; most news consumers know that they’re being bamboozled by news anchors wearing expensively tailored suits and seventeen pounds of hair gel. Some broad-based polls claim that as few as 40% of consumers trust the news, while 74% view the news media as biased. In addition, only 4% trust news from social media. Lastly, a recent poll of far-right, evangelical, NRA card-carrying, white separatists who exclusively watch Fox “News” have 97% confidence in both the nightly news and the lottery ticket that they purchased with a fill-up and a six-pack at Bubba Mart.

Frankly, there is no consensus from polling (or other) organizations as to the quality of nightly news. This, of course, leaves the consumer in the awkward position of choosing for themselves. The most popular choices being:

  • Complacency – Happy to let other people and corporations choose for me.
  • Actively Searching – Willing to search for news and different perspectives from US and foreign sources.
  • Oblivious – I just like to watch the drug company commercials.

Today, finding reliable news takes work. So… Do you prefer beef and broccoli, or chocolate ice cream?

Parting Funny: My schoolmates would make love to anything that moved, but I never saw any reason to limit myself.Emo Philips
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