Because of the nature of news and personal opinions based on what happens in the world of current events, it’s sometimes good to remind people periodically to stay focused on facts and to understand the implications involved in news reporting and how it balances out with how we think. Should Casey die? Is universal healthcare the answer? Should more American troops be sent to Afghanistan? Is Obama a good president? The ideas and opinions of people run incredibly strong and deep, and it’s just plain human nature to be this way. Here on blogs, we grow by engaging each other in comments. In the news, it’s not readily distinguishable because the brain doesn’t always comprehend what’s been absorbed, especially when it fits the bill on a particular topic. For example, FOX goes one way and MSNBC goes the other and seldom the twain shall meet. Rest assured, if one network is agreeable, that one is perceived as being fair and balanced and the other is up to no good.
This is an article I originally wrote in college back in the early 70s. I have updated it a couple of times and published it on the blog in 2005 and 2008. This is a new approach to an old post…
Every day in the news media we are bombarded by reports that lean one way or another. Pro-this, anti-that, so to speak. Very rarely do we read, see or hear any type of news that isn’t slanted. Even your relatives, friends and co-workers have said the coverage of a particular news item was so biased for or against a particular issue, they felt compelled to tell you about it. You may have sat there and thought, “Hey, I saw the same thing, on the same station, and I didn’t feel it was as bad as what they just told me.” Of course, each one of us has an opinion on just about everything, and sometimes we run into people who are just so animated over how the news is reported, they seem to lose track of exactly what they heard, saw or read, and, by inflection, they inject their own personal views that create a slant on the slanted news. Those who do the reporting tend to be pariahs in the minds of these viewers and they misconstrue what was actually said in the first place. A lot of it has to do with wishful thinking. As is the case now with Barack Obama, people either like him or they hate his guts with a vengeance, so out of their mouths come some pretty nasty words. Of course, kinder and gentler words come out of his supporters.
A lot of times, someone believes deeply in a cause. Save the Whales! Causes can be twisted into political agendas because conservatives interpret conservation and animal rights organizations and issues as being liberal, for instance. It works both ways. Over time, too many issues have been highly distorted and twisted into one’s own way of thinking, when, in reality, that should not be the case. Teddy Roosevelt was a Republican president and he is regarded as the founder of environmental conservation in America; a true protector of flora, fauna, and land. Was he a liberal tree hugger? Good question, but for some odd reason, we seem to get confused and downright mean over issues that may or may not impact us, depending on points of view. Just yell GLOBAL WARMING! in a room full of Democrats. Do the same in a room filled with Republicans. You’ll never hear so much passion, along with a heavy dose of bias and self-serving interpretations of science.
Slants take on many forms, not always of a political nature. They can delve into the philosophical or religious views of the author, too. They could be based on one’s own experiences. How many movie and restaurant critics have written bad reviews? Clearly, there’s nothing political about those. Maybe you saw that movie and ate at that restaurant and you liked both. Who is right here? You or the critic? Below are three different takes on the same fictitious event. One is a straight forward report and the other two are slants. Each slant will infer something different. Read between the lines.
(1) A two vehicle accident occurred on Wednesday, at the intersection of Main Street and Vine Avenue, in downtown Podunk around 11 PM. One person did not survive. Dennis Walker, 15, of Ruralville was pronounced dead at the scene. His father Michael Walker, also of Ruralville, was transported to Podunk Medical Center, where he was treated and released. The driver of the other vehicle, Scott Wilson, 22, of Podunk, and his passengers, suffered minor injuries and were treated at the scene. The cause of the accident is pending a police investigation.
(2) A 15 year old boy died in a two car accident on Wednesday here in Podunk. The accident occurred at the intersection of Main Street and Vine Avenue. Dennis Walker, of Ruralville, was pronounced dead at the scene. His father, Michael Walker, also of Ruralville, was flown by helicopter to the trauma center at Podunk Medical Center. The driver of the other vehicle, Scott Wilson, 22, of Podunk, and his passengers, suffered minor injuries and were treated at the scene. Mr. Walker had just pulled out of the parking lot of the First Baptist Church of Podunk, where he had picked his son up from a Boy Scout meeting. An officer at the scene was quoted as saying, “I can’t say for sure what happened, but empty beer cans and bottles were found in the other vehicle.”
A witness said that the other car had just pulled out of Bill’s Tavern, less than a block away, and was exceeding the posted speed limit of 35MPH. Blood alcohol levels have not been released and an official report will not be disclosed until the investigation is completed.
(3) An accident which caused the death of one person occurred at the intersection of Main Street and Vine Avenue in Podunk. Dennis Walker, 15, of Ruralville, died at the scene. His father, Michael Walker, also of Ruralville, was transported to Podunk Medical Center. The driver of the other vehicle, Scott Wilson, 22, of Podunk, and his passengers, were treated for minor injuries. There have been many accidents at this intersection over the past 10 years, according to state statistics. A witness at the scene said, “This is ridiculous. We’ve protested to state, county and city officials about this problem for years. We’ve signed petitions. We need a traffic light here now! No one heeds the 4 way stop signs. At least two others have died in the past three years.” An investigation is pending and weather did not seem to be a factor.
Do you see how easy it is to write a slant? You can slant a story any way you want to suit your own opinion and to get your message across. We see, read and hear it every day on the news. It’s not just news outlets, either. Today, the Internet is a bastion of unlimited free speech and there are millions of bloggers around the world who exercise that right, except for China, but it certainly doesn’t mean it’s all straightforward and true. It’s not just bloggers. There are tons of Web sites waiting to sink their fangs into our brains. It’s not just Web sites, either. Governments love to indoctrinate their citizenry. Of course, I could go on and on and on, but I won’t.
You, the reader, watcher and listener, have to distinguish between what is real and what is a twist and even if you agree, it still doesn’t make it true. Remember that.
Of course, that’s my unbiased opinion.