Monday, January 30, 2006

Depolarizing the News

Note: This is the first in a series of “Depolarization” articles I intend to write, and should be referenced in any post which contains the word “Depolarizing” in the title, so the reader may have some inkling of where the author is coming from.

Commercial news media exist to sell the news. In selling, they must pick a target audience they feel best suits their needs. In order to sell to that target, they customize the news by reporting only that they feel is important to that target. They do this by editing the context of the report. Therefore, most of what you see, hear, and read is biased, or “spun,” in some way. Face it: we normally hear only what we want to hear, right? So, this practice of spinning makes perfect sense in marketing.

Try this experiment: Watch a “straight” news report program on CNN, then watch a similar program on FNC (Fox News Channel). When they are reporting the same story, does it even seem like they are talking about the same thing? Do they quote the same sources, or interview the same people?

The best example of polarization of the news we have seen recently is the Corporal Starr letter. For those who are unfamiliar with this item, it was an “in the event of my death” letter written by a serviceman in Iraq to his family. The Washington Post and other papers printed the letter in its entirety, while the New York Times printed only those parts of the letter which, out of context, made it seem as if Starr had possessed a negative attitude toward his service in Iraq. The Times did so because it was giving its target readers what it felt they wanted to read.

We all have our opinions. Opinions are our personal talking points when socializing with others, and rather than trying to change the opinion of others, we can usually agree to disagree. We form our opinions through what we observe. Personally, when I form an opinion, I try to get as much information from both sides of the story as I can. This is because I enjoy having an intelligent discussion with those whose opinions differ from mine. Not to try to change their own opinion, but to explain why I think the way I do. So, I feel, my personal acquisition of information requires depolarization of the news..

I listen to the news on NPR (National Public Radio) and watch the news on FNC. These are two seemingly totally divergent news sources, for many consider Fox to be biased too much to the “conservative” point of view, while many others consider NPR to be too “liberal.” Interestingly enough, both sources report the same stories, but use different sources and interview from different points of view. Often the reports coincide well, while, just as often, I feel as though I’m getting two sides of the same story. Thus, I feel that I can weed out polarization, and truly get “straight” information on which to base my opinion.

As a side note, and as a way to end this piece, my method of assimilation has taught me two things: First, that in this realm of consciousness, truth is relative, and secondly, that, by keeping an open mind, I remain optimistic.

No comments: