Monday, December 07, 2009

Following the News

Men, one of the most important things you can do to help yourself and your family is become discerning about the news and how it is reported to you. Do not let your children be at the mercy of whomever is controlling the sound bites of the day!

An inevitable bias is the amount of ink or time allotted to communicate a story. A feature story on the CBS Evening News might be 4 minutes long. How completely can you cover multiple angles and perspectives on a complex story in 4 minutes? In the print world, how many people read a full-length story, vs. just accept the headline and move on?

A practical strategy which has helped me in the last two years is to check (where news stories are assembled from thousands of feeds by computer software). For important stories, check multiple sources with predictable biases so you have a fuller, more complete picture. For example, checking the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the San Jose Mercury Press, and Fox News reports will give you more balance and breadth than if you only ever read the Fox News report.

The other strategy I recommend is reading the Bible before you read the news.

Two events are not getting broad spectrum news coverage, that I believe are significant, but seem to be less important to most media sources than the latest poll figures for minor politicians.

First, the coming courts martial of three Navy SEALS who captured a long-wanted terrorist but are facing trial because the terrorist claims the SEALS gave him a fat lip. Since when do we prosecute our own soldiers for fighting and capturing the enemy, and in this case, bringing him back alive? This sets a horrible precedent. I'm amazed that there has been so little news coverage.

Second, the controversy over the emails and software from the University of East Anglia climate research group. It's not clear whether the information was hacked or leaked. But now that it's been made public, there is clear evidence that researchers manipulated data to make it fit global warming expectations, modified software models to shape projections, and covered up or squelched data and researchers who didn't necessarily agree with their perspectives. This is bad science. Considering the amount of money and impact that cap-n-trade bills and Copenhagen agreements will mean, I think it's at the level of fraud. It seriously undermines public confidence in scientists and will make it much more difficult to do effective climate research in the future. And how much is this story being reported on CBS, ABC, and NBC? No coverage at all before the UN announced they would launch an investigation, and precious little since then.

So do not limit your news intake to one source.

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