Wednesday, May 10, 2006

A Matter of Perspective

Imagine waking up in the morning, turning on the news, and hearing, "There's been another '6 murders, 27 rapes, 38 arsons, 180 robberies, and 360 instances of assault' since yesterday morning. More foreigners have snuck across the borders illegally, and the government is continuing to bleed red ink."

Worse, this news report is remarkably similar to yesterday's, and similar reports will be aired tomorrow, and the day after that, ad infinitum.

Am I speaking about Iraq? No. These statistics are from our very own California.

Daily we are overwhelmed with bad news from Iraq. As Victor Davis Hanson points out in "Eye of the Beholder", reporters focus on the negatives of that weary, war-torn nation. However, if reporters wanted to paint California in a negative light, we would be inundated with reports like the one above of the daily crime, financial woes, a large inmate population, prison scandals, and the incessant border problems California faces.

I have been to California a couple of times; I'm sure it is nothing like Iraq. Given a choice between vacationing in either one, I would return to California. Nevertheless, it's wise to keep in mind that much of the news from Iraq may be influenced by the perspective of the reporters.


At 5/10/2006 3:32 PM, Anonymous Andy said...

Perspective, yes, but also difficulty of reporting and probability of grabbing ratings. As we know from fictional tv programming, advertising, and just about all media sources, violence and sex sell. A network can go with more detailed stories about the happenings in Iraq, or they can run up numbers about how many have died and show us footage of bomb wreckage. They already know that death tolls and bomb blasts will net them ratings, so why take the chance on something else, especially when that something else requires more work?

It isn't responsible reporting, but from a financial perspective, it is sensible.

At 5/10/2006 4:55 PM, Blogger Anna Venger said...

Hmmm, makes me think of a book I read called "How the News Makes Us Dumb". One of the arguments was that the news is a business first and foremost. If its a slow news day, they still need a story. It becomes impossible to differentiate what is truly impt from what is not. The book suggested it might be better to read journals that go into more detail and depth than to listen to daily news clips. That way one can avoid all the hype.

At 5/10/2006 6:27 PM, Anonymous Andy said...

Yes. I wrote on this from a little bit of a different angle over on my politics page.

At 5/10/2006 7:39 PM, Blogger Anna Venger said...

Good posting, Andy. It is frightening how data is so manipulated. Even worse, the general public is sorely lacking in critical thinking skills and can't seem to sort out unstated premises/assumptions and fallacies of logic. In the current political climate so dominated by hatred, whichever side screeches the loudest seems to prevail quite frequently. Or as you quoted in your post, "What is more frightening than any particular policy or ideology is the widespread habit of disregarding facts. Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey put it this way: "Demagoguery beats data."

Hope you are feeling better.


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