Sunday, June 18, 2006

Incompetence and Credulity in Media

Why does the news industry mess up so much? Christopher Taylor looks at two more reasons this week: incompetence and credulity.

Incompetence in media is evident in areas in which most reporters lack proper background. For example, religion, science and the military all can stymie the average journalist. Reporters tend to be less religious than the public in general. Therefore, they frequently misinterpret the beliefs and actions of various religious groups. Also, while most reporters have probably had at least a few science courses, with the technicality of science, they can often be in over their heads and misrepresent the facts in a science news piece. Additionally, for many, the military is a very different way of life which they cannot comprehend and often feel contempt for. As a result, news stories about the military often lack depth of understanding.

Credulity is evidenced in the dominant worldview or perspective brought to stories so that questions are not asked about certain issues because the answers are assumed.

Of course, Mr. Taylor's essay is much more thorough and well-thought out. Please read it if time permits.

7 Comments:

At 6/18/2006 11:53 AM, Blogger Christopher Taylor said...

I really appreciate your links to this series, honestly when I do these it's mostly to keep some readers checking the site over the weekend when I don't update, I think you put it more succinctly and clearly than I did ;)

 
At 6/18/2006 11:57 AM, Blogger Anna Venger said...

Well, I'm glad you approve the summary, but it is merely a summary and lacks any proofs or evidences. Your essay provides the that and examines the issue in more depth. :)

 
At 6/18/2006 2:40 PM, Anonymous Andy said...

This guy knows how I think. I've had these thoughts about the media since I became involved with politics and have even done some writing along the same lines, though without a comparable level of detail.

 
At 6/18/2006 3:57 PM, Blogger Willard Whyte said...

Well, another fine string of gross generalizations, particularly about the ingrained "anti-business" bias of media organizations owned by some of the largest multinationals on the planet. Fox is "conservative" because of its ownership, and the initial business plan to frame its presentation of "news" in that manner, to fill a "void" for this viewpoint. To make money.
So the result is "liberal news" on one hand, ostensibly spun to this audience, and "conservative news" on the other station, also spun for a slice of the audience.
And where is truth, balance and an uninvolved approach? The basic moral base of a profession exists to at least attempt this, though no one can enirely escape their worldview and environment. If you abandon these professional ethics at the starting gate, the result is information, data and filler that is sliced, diced and marketed to preach to the choir, not to inform. And the line between neutral reporting (or as close as is humanly possible) and open advocacy is completely erased.
And that's where it all is going. Spinning, entertaining, shocking and dividing audiences into ever more hardened positions.
And the vast audience in the middle -- lost in a sea of noise, anger, attack and obfuscation -- they just turn away in disgust.
And what is very, very rapidly being lost is an essential leg on the stool of democracy.
If all those newsrooms were 75% church-going conservatives, and they knowingly slanted reports, ignored valid viewpoints and otherwise went about their careers as this man suggests, it would be equally destructive.
Here's a task Anna: It's 3:30 p.m., you are dispatched to UD on the report of the release of a study on bio-engineered corn, said to be able to withstand drought and perform 10 other miracles -- all without altering the ecosystem we all depend on for life. Your story deadline is 6:30.
And don't make a single mistake or simplification that one of those scientists may spot over his coffee the next morning. Carefully, thoroughly and, armed with your chemical engineering degree, produce a balanced report that perfectly captures the science, the potential benefits, the possible harm that also is understandable to everyone.
And tomorrow, you will be covering the passage of Delaware's $3 billion budget, and your task is to make sense of it by 5 p.m. for 700,000 residents, while wading through the spin from left and right and the jargon of the CPAs.
And remember, your work will be subject to anyone's "expert" critique the moment it is done and forever.
And any drift one smidge to the left or right, or any inclusion or omission will be judged not as a technical flaw, but as a sign of your corruption, moral depravity or "sloth and credulity."
Give me a break.

 
At 6/18/2006 8:22 PM, Blogger Christopher Taylor said...

Well, another fine string of gross generalizations, particularly about the ingrained "anti-business" bias of media organizations owned by some of the largest multinationals on the planet.

Would it have killed ya to comment on my blog? ;)

I must have missed where I characterized media organizations as anti-business. Maybe you have a quote or something?

If all those newsrooms were 75% church-going conservatives, and they knowingly slanted reports, ignored valid viewpoints and otherwise went about their careers as this man suggests, it would be equally destructive.

I agree. Glad we're on the same page, wait til I examine real bias instead of sloth or credulity.

I don't mean to attack reporters who likely have good, hard workers among their ranks like any other job.

I just am noting what happens and why, I doubt strongly you can make a factual claim that somehow reporters are immune to slothful work or incompetence in coverage, can you? Why on earth would journalism be the one job in existence which escapes these problems?

 
At 6/18/2006 8:24 PM, Anonymous Andy said...

I largely agree with this too, but I don't really think most of it is necessarily in conflict with the articles on bias. The bottom line is that media responsibility needs to be restored on many levels. I have written a (tiny) bit along the lines that media management needs to rethink its approach to journalism in a broader sense. If short deadlines are causing errors to crop up, extend the deadlines. I really believe that is possible without totally compromising profitability. It just requires a bit of a new approach to news.

 
At 6/18/2006 11:13 PM, Blogger Anna Venger said...

Willard,

There was a void to be filled to be sure because there were no other voices.

I agree it's sad to go to partisan news. I wish the media could be non-biased, but I don't think that is really possible bec we bring with us our worldview to everything we do. That's why I disclosed exactly what I'm all about for everyone to see. You know my bias when you come to my site. I try to be fair, I try to make sure my facts are straight when applicable, but I'm seeing things through my perspective even when I'm trying not to. But frighteningly, the media don't realize they are biased. They really believe they are being impartial, and they are not intentionally skewing info the vast majority of the time.

Since newsrooms do tend to be fairly homogeneous in worldview, and seem to have no desire to change that composition and tone, we may have no choice but to return to the early days of the republic when everyone knew that one newspaper was a Jefferson supporter and the other an Adams fan, for example.

Deadlines, as you pointed out, are another problem. News is all about business. Quality is indeed going to be lacking sometimes if the goal is fast, before you get scooped, rather than factual. "How the News Makes Us Dumb" discussed this factor as well as others.

 

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home