I read an article in the USA Today section of our local newspaper that referred to new poll showing that Carly Fiorina had roared to the top of the GOP Presidential candidate lineup, Marco Rubio had jumped to second place, and Donald Trump was skidding down the slippery slope at a fast pace.
As a presidential race and debate junkie (I watch all the debates and read all the polls for both major parties), I thought, Huh, that’s interesting. Let me read more. So I did, and only then did I discover the poll included only thirty people, all “political experts,” of which only a couple were actually named and their expertise defined. One was a professor of political science. Another a newspaper editor. I have no idea if the remaining political experts were poli sci profs or Las Vegas bookies. My internal critic immediately shredded that poll as “stupid,” as Mr. Trump probably said as well. The sample is too small, it’s not random, and we would have to dig much deeper to identify all of the polled “experts.” Who has time to do that? And yet, the article reads as if the poll accurately defines and predicts what is going to happen next.
So what is it that makes reporters and columnists assume readers are so dumb they’ll believe anything they read? Sigh. The truth is, it’s out of fashion to analyze, evaluate, and reach our own conclusions. We’re into
slam bam, thank you ma’am bare bones reporting with the reporter/columnist acting as chief interpreter and judge.
Please tell me I’m wrong. Please tell me Americans of all ages still read and evaluate news, carefully separating fact from fiction from foolishness.
I’m not sure I’ll believe you, though. Here’s another reason why.
Over the years, I’ve developed the habit of scanning the article leads and links listed on the Drudge Report, mostly looking for those tidbits published in UK or English version foreign news outlets. It’s like watching BBC or other world news on television to get a feel for the stories not being reported here at home.
Lately, more of the links on the Drudge Report have taken on the appearance of the cover leads on the Enquirer and other checkout stand news magazines that cater to the sensational and outrageous.
You want examples? Here are three I saw today:
HBO ‘WESTWORLD’ Extras Must Agree to Sexually Explicit Casting Contract…’Genital-to-genital touching’…
Man’s Leg Bursts Open From Flesh-Eating Venom After Being Bitten By Spider On Flight…
Dog ‘drives’ pickup truck into lake…
And this is what passes for world news.
Does anyone else have good examples of reporting that makes you crazy?
Note: My guest tomorrow is the wonderful and entertaining Rich Keller with his thoughts on productivity. He also mentions my my upcoming whole body plastic surgery. Don’t be alarmed. He’s only kidding. Honest!)
Susan Gourley says
You hit this one right on the head. People will believe stuff they read if it aligns with their opinions without checking to see if the source is legitimate.
That’s one of the things that makes me a little nuts on Facebook. I’ve been hiding the updates from a few folks, people I really like, because they jump on every anti-whatever that aligns with their philosophy or ideology without ever checking one single fact. Truth seems to be a lost concept.
Margot Kinberg says
You’ve hit on one of my pet peeves, Pat, and it actually leaves me concerned. It’s one reason for which i think it’s so crucial that young people learn to think critically. They need to understand what they are being told, and to assess whether it’s logical. Hype and half-truths are such big parts of today’s campaigns that it’s impossible know exactly what is true and what isn’t unless you are willing to really think critically.
I agree, Margot. I’m afraid critical thinking has skipped a generation or two. Most things in this world are cyclical (as older folks like me have seen for ourselves), so perhaps (I say optimistically) this trend will turn again as well. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to see a new generation of journalists turn this mess upside down?
Alex J. Cavanaugh says
The media used to be about reporting the news. Now it’s about controlling the masses through fear and sensationalism. Sad.
It is sad, Alex. I’m appalled to think this is the information that educates our children and young adults about what’s important in current events and world affairs.