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Understanding the news: a quick Q&A

Discussion in 'Media, Interviews, Blogs, Talks, Events about XMRV' started by Kelly, Jan 18, 2010.

  1. Kelly

    Kelly

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    Q. How do I know whether the news is biased?

    A. Broadcast and print journalism vary in length and format, but the basics are the same. News does not contain the opinion of the person reporting the news.

    Opinions are very clearly marked and separated. (Blogs can be a mix of news and opinion or strictly opinion.)

    Bias implies that only one point of view is given or is given prominence over other points of view.

    The personal opinions and experiences of every human being color how they interpret the world around them. A reader or viewer not agreeing or not liking what is said or printed doesn't automatically mean the article is biased. It just means the reader or viewer disagrees for whatever reason. Which is everyone's right. Opinions are like belly buttons - everyone has one.


    Q. How do journalists do their job?

    A. Journalists try to get reliable, accurate facts in a short amount of time. Everyone in the profession follows the same general formula.

    * News writers or newscasters don't give their personal opinion - everything that is said in the news comes from a source. For example - The president said, "We plan to blow up the moon tomorrow." The journalist didn't say that - the source, in this example - a president, said it. That means it was attributed to the source.

    * Most news articles try to tell all the major sides. This is known as balance. You don't have to agree with what a source says, but the news is balanced if all sides are heard from.

    * Most sources, in general, are considered experts in their field - that is why many sources are from the government, are scientists, doctors or possible a business person who represents a business such as one that make anti-virals.

    Regular people can also be a source if they are affected in some way by the news being written about such as a patient. But regular people are generally only considered an expert on their own personal experience.


    Q. An article l read in the Busybody Times quoted Sally Smith, but this article used John Smith instead. Why?

    A. Journalists often find out about sources from press releases or they meet sources and use them again and again because they already know their viewpoint. Maybe the other journalist contacted Sally Smith but Sally Smith was in Bora Bora and didn't get back to the journalist before the deadline for the article.

    Or if the journalist is new to the story they may decide to use the same sources as reporters who have done similar stories. Plus some sources do not want to speak to journalists for many reasons.


    Q. But I know that source lied. Why didn't the journalist know that?

    A. Journalists try to catch sources who lie to them or who are dishonest, but that takes time, experience and awareness. Picture a class of 50 five-year-olds running around and one teacher trying to keep an eye on each and every kid at all times!

    Or sources may not realize that they are wrong or consider themselves wrong. They are only telling what they know or think and no one knows everything. Plus, remember, everyone has their own point of view. Different isn't always wrong - just different.

    Most articles are researched, sources located and interviewed and the piece written or produced in less than three hours. That is not a lot of time to find out things that aren't obvious.


    Q. How do I let journalists know if I think they got it wrong?

    A. Most journalists don't have the time to reply, but you can make a comment in the comment section online, write a letter to the editor or even contact the journalist directly if their contact information is given.

    The key is to be polite and respectful no matter how angry you are or given how strongly you disagree. Most people ignore rude or angry people. You probably do too if you don't know them or understand why they are angry.

    If you want to alert journalists or other readers to a fact they missed, tell them where they can verify what you are saying. "Everybody knows that" didn't count when you were a kid and it doesn't work in this case either.

    Don't assume people automatically know what you are talking about - give them a brief background if it is not obvious from the story or your remarks. Keep it relevant.

    Run spell check before you post or send. ;)
  2. muffin

    muffin Senior Member

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    USA!
    Kelly: Thank you for this post. I have always wondered how journalism worked and now I have a better idea thanks to you. This will help me when I send my comments, etc. off to the media - as I have done in the past. I do have my husband do the real writing since my brain does not work and he can hit it in a way that has a "hook" to it. So your points on how to let a Journalist know that they got it wrong was very helpful. I do know angry and rude do NOT work - but as a very sick person my anger does get in the way.

    Again, thanks for taking the time to put this out for all of us to see. I believe we will be needing this information very soon - when the CDC puts the XMRV Replication study out and we all get MAD and respond with great anger.
  3. Alice Band

    Alice Band PWME - ME by Ramsay

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    What a strange Q & A. Very naive.

    This certainly does not apply in the UK.

    Newspapers are often owned by private individuals who blatantly control what is in the papers. They only cover news that reflects their point of view or the political slant that they wish to push.

    Is there anywhere in the world that this is different?
  4. muffin

    muffin Senior Member

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    USA!
    This post was most informative and valid for the US and other countries

    Alice: IF you guys in the UK respond against the reporter or journalist with negative, angry or rude comments do they post those? If you post a negative with insightful comments and rock solid data do they post that? I have long wondered about the BBC though...

    Yes, our newspapers in the US have their own slants - more to the Right/more to the Left - but they have to get the details right. So for us in the US responding to them must be done in a very careful and even-handed way or they will not post our comments. We are allowed to disagree with what is written here in the US with the major newspapers and media (tv) as this is NOT the old Soviet Union. However, again it must be done without overt anger, hostility, or rudeness.

    So, this post for us in the US was most helpful. I do know your newspapers in the UK have very certain slants but you also can make arguements that are counter to what has been written. And remember, the Internet is a near free-for-all and all voices get heard - EXCEPT those that are angry, hostile, nutty, rude or foul-mouthed. The post was not naive for us in the US and probably other countries. It was helpful and needed to be said given how angry we all will get as events unfold. And we can NOT be overtly hostile or rude or our cause is made to look like a bunch of raving nutjobs - just as the CDC would like the world to see us CFIDS/ME sick as. Your Wessely has you all looking like nutjobs with personality disorders, so I would follow the above poster's rather informative instructions.
  5. Alice Band

    Alice Band PWME - ME by Ramsay

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    Hi Muffin,

    Glad to hear that the papers are better for you.

    I can confirm that the UK papers are totally different and we don't need your warning

    Do all PWCFS feel that it the case and are all USA newspapers fair and balanced?

    Just a question as it appears things are very different
  6. CJB

    CJB Senior Member

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    Journalism in the US has taken a nose-dive in the last 30 years, IMHO. It began when corporate interests began taking over news departments. Although very cleverly done, opinion, corporate bias and the need to get something on the air or in print FAST have destroyed independent, truthful reporting.

    Watch the move, "Network".
  7. Koan

    Koan Be the change.

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    http://www.uiowa.edu/~commstud/resources/media/mediawatch.html

    Here is a list of media watchdogs and others who are not as confident as some here that human beings involved in journalistic activities are able to be unbiased.

    Most of us do not live up to the ideals of what human behaviour might be; journalists, editors and owners of news outlets are human beings.

    ETA The above list of links includes organizations with both left and right wing bias as well as those who's main concern is impartial journalism without a political agenda.
  8. Martlet

    Martlet Senior Member

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    Muffin - No problems getting opposing views into British media outlets. I've been doing it for decades - including the BBC, on which I had occasion to be interviewed more than once.
  9. Katie

    Katie Guest

    Interesting further reading/watching on UK and US media

    Outfoxed - search for it on Youtube as it's a fascinating insight into Fox News and subtle technique to look out for in media reports such as sententes as "some people say..."

    Flat Earth News by Nick Davies. I've mentioned him before but it really is a brilliant readable book on modern UK media and how it is less about ideology and more about bottom line capitalism, speed and churnalism leading to simple media manipulation by PR companies, governments and even scientists.

    I recommend both of these heartily. My media module was short but incredibly enlightening.

    And those with a much, much larger stomach - Noam Chomsky - Manufacturing Consent.
  10. Martlet

    Martlet Senior Member

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    Katie

    I come at everything (well, almost everything) from a historical perspective and I have to say that I agree with you on the "subtle technique to look out for in media reports such as sentences as 'some people say'". But we can still write back. As long as we can write back...
  11. muffin

    muffin Senior Member

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    Ok. The US DOES have very biased media - FoxNews is one such animal

    The Washington Post has been called liberal-leaning but generally the news as reported is objective and usually accurate. The Washington Times and the Wall Street Journal are right-leaning. Fox news has been called "the arm of the Republican Party". However, I do think that "generally speaking" US newspapers try to get the facts and details correct. Editorials are another thing and you know who has what slant.

    I would be naive to believe that US papers and other media is totally objective - but generally - GENERALLY - the details are mostly accurate. Analysis, when they do it (and should NOT do it unless it is an in depth analysis from the facts) is found in our editorials. I'm getting this information from my husband who has dealt with the newspapers/TV/journals, etc and we do watch to make sure that AP and all other media quote him correctly. Thus far, he has been quoted correctly.

    We are going a bit off topic. I and others did notice that the PLOS One UK XMRV study did NOT include any truly negative comments. Someone actually noted that in their comment and the PLOS people let it be. I made a comment that took me quite a while to write (as an expert of CFIDS since I live with it) and used the data, protocols, etc. to make my point. No anger or attacks, no discussion of politics and Weasly, just the facts compared one to the other.

    Anway, I am someone who needed to read this post as I do get mad and that is NOT good. So for me, being reminded of proper response to our US (and other media types) was a darn good, timely post. Well done to our poster.
  12. Martlet

    Martlet Senior Member

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    FOX is FIXED

    ... and thoroughly evil, IMO. I don't count anything put out by them as news.

    In the UK, I trust the Financial Times - yes, for other than financial reporting - The Independent and, to a lesser degree, The Guardian. The Telegraph is also known as The Torygraph, while the tabloid News Of The World was known as far back as the Sixties as News Of The Screws, for the sort of prurient content it focused on.
  13. Dr. Yes

    Dr. Yes Shame on You

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    Actually, for matters of international politics, a good number of Americans have often turned to UK or other foreign reporting to avoid the bias in major American media. It depends on where the vested interests are. In the UK, on issues surrounding M.E., there is more pro-Wessely, anti-ME propaganda and bias than there is here (although there is certainly some here; mostly, though, what one finds is ignorance or above all, indifference; the disease "CFS" is truly invisible in the country that named it!). I think this is because the insurance industry in the UK, indeed the government itself, has a financial interest in denying support to ME patients and therefore supporting the psychosomatic lobby against them. In the US, where we have little state insurance (and precious little chronic care insurance or long term social disability programs of any sort), we are simply ignored, so there is much less lobbying or co-option of the media on this issue. They can easily legally cut us loose, so there's little need to get psychiatrists and other 'doctors' to help do so. Misinformation and a vast government silence had been good enough to keep our plight out of the headlines.

    But it would indeed be naive to think that in moments of high conflict (like now) that some journalists here cannot become - unwittingly or not - mouthpieces for the vested interests in the UK (who do have friends in high places here, including in the CDC), or for the usually less aggressive ones here.

    I don't know how ME/CFS is treated in Canadian media; Koan and others could speak to that...

    As to the question of 'balance' ... that term has been much abused over here in the last decade or two. The phoney concept of 'balance' is now being used primarily to dilute any reports that undermine the 'official line' put out by powerful organizations. Many journalists here have complained bitterly about this; Phil Donahue (memorably fired for challenging government line on the Iraq War) said that 'balance' meant that for every guest perceived to be on the 'left' of the government position, he had to have two on at the same time who disagreed. This makes investigative journalism extremely difficult, especially when exploring issues of ecology (e.g. climate change), a given civil rights struggle, etc.. Not all issues require giving equal weight (or any) to the 'other side', especially if that 'side' is the dominant, politically powerful voice that has gone largely unquestioned in the media and public consciousness.

    OK, since I first started on this post (sometimes I have to take breaks a lot :sofa:), I see that Muffin has replied again... Muffin (and it feels very odd calling someone "Muffin" :Retro tongue:), I have to say that I think your anger was well-justified, and although our anger does need direction when we choose to take action, that does not mean we have to sacrifice the clarity of our vision. The enemies, or obstacles, that we identify and that make us angry remain who or what they are, and we must not forget that. Questioning the objectivity of a reporter, or the motives of an organization, if they clearly are questionable, is a vital thing to do both for ourselves and as citizens in general. And no one will know how much we are suffering, or how wrong they themselves are, unless they get real emotional feedback from us. Witness, in this forum, the thread about the UK newspaper that ran a poll that suggested to the public that 'belief' in ME was a matter of choice... they received overwhelming, angry responses and swiftly apologized. A few polite reprimands would not have had the same effect.

    Lastly, I would like to say that the vast majority of letters to editors of scientific and mainstream media by ME/CFS patients have been very appropriately toned, some are angrier, some are more diplomatic, but I have seen little that was really unworthy of submission (except for misspellings - for God's sake, guys, use the spellcheck!). I have some journalistic background myself, particularly in science journalism, so I'm not speaking from a position of ignorance here, and neither are quite a few of the people on this forum, even though they don't advertise their credentials.

    Oh, and Katie -
    I've seen Chomsky - he's really quite thin.
  14. Katie

    Katie Guest

    For folk living in the UK, buy Private Eye! It's the best check and balance on our media and news that goes unreported in this country. I can't state enough how important Private Eye is for our democracy, if you've never bought it before please buy it and enjoy reading some unfussy, no nonsense journalism and some classy satire. Ian Hislop is a legend and national treasure.

    As for newspapers I trust, I read the Guardian because I'm a bit of a lefty and I like Charlie Brooker in G2 but I'd pick up the Indy now and then (usually when it was being given away with free chocs and drink at uni! I miss that so much) but the red tops aren't even good enough for the bottom of a birdcage.

    All our news is a little dodgy, but it's the subtle ways that are the most insiduous and sometimes funny! For example, when Gordon Brown (Labour) came to power he had old Maggie Thatcher (Conservative milk snatcher) round for tea. The BBC did a report interspercing Gordon shaking hands and looking statesmanlike with Thatcher in a tank back in the eighties. This was contrasted with opposition leader Cameron (Con) looking a bit of a prat on a bicycle (you know, the footage used when his car was following him with his briefcase inside). Nice propaganda work BBC, funny works ;) Mostly, it's the pressure for time and stories and profit that has hampered our media. That's why Private Eye is so great, buy it!


    Lol, I'll cook him a good dinner then ;) He can tell me more about the failings of the IMF and World Bank and how it feeds the drug trade in return, lovely dinner conversation :D
  15. Martlet

    Martlet Senior Member

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    Ah yes, Private Eye. I was thinking in terms of the dailies, but I also love Private Eye. As for being a "bit of a lefty," so am I, although over here, being a "bit of a British lefty" is regarded as being a raving socialist/borderline communist.;) Anyone want to see my picture with Barack Obama? :D On second thoughts, no. He looked great but I was drenched and looked like something the cat had dragged in. He did give me a hamburger though, so that made me feel better. :victory:
  16. Dr. Yes

    Dr. Yes Shame on You

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    Obama gave you a hamburger?
  17. Martlet

    Martlet Senior Member

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    Yes he did. :D

    We talked and joked for a couple of minutes, he complimented me on my English accent, signed my campaign button and then said "Would you prefer a hamburger or a hot-dog?" At a BBQ in July 2008.
  18. usedtobeperkytina

    usedtobeperkytina Senior Member

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    Being a news reporter myself, I can say Kelly is right as to the goal of US newspapers in their news reports. Remember, the editorial page is the place for opinion, including the position of the editorial board. But realize this, many of the reporters will not agree with the opinion of the editorial board. The news reports are supposed to be accurate and fair. (Many are not saying "balanced" any more, but are saying the goal is to be fair. Balanced may mean giving weight to all sides of an issue, even if some are ridiculous, as in the earth is still flat.)

    Again, speaking of US newspapers, bias of the reporter or editor who gives final approval may creep in, but it is not usually with intent. The bias may be more in what is not included in the report rather than what is in it or the way it is presented. I have noticed a few AP stories that are using what I call "opinion" words or drawing conclusions. I hate to see it. Some opinion words are often in the adjectives or adverbs, such as "beautiful, ugly" ...you get the idea.

    But, what most readers don't realize is that even though the reporter has a personal opinion, accuracy is much more important than their own opinion. And getting that perfect quote is much more important. And getting the story first is much more important. And getting the story better than their competitor is much more important. Just as any business, the desire to do a good job and beat the competition is a much greater motivation than personal opinions. Remember, it is a business and a public service. I read a commentary by one reporter who said he was so concerned about representing those with views different from his own that he thinks now, looking back, that his reports were unbalanced in favor on the other side. So most reporters, me included, want people to tell us when we are inaccurate so we can save our credibility by doing a correction.

    I have done a news report on a controversial subject and ended up with both sides thinking my report was biased against them. I figured I must have gotten it right if both sides are not happy with it.

    And ethically, an editor should give priority to letters to the editor that criticize their judgment than commend it. You will see many newspapers publish such letters. If they were so passionate about winning the public over and getting what they think is best, pushing their personal opinions, then why do they put in those with opposing views? The reason is that newspapers put the need for a public debate over issues above their own opinions on the issues.

    Now, T.V. News, standard is not so strict. Cable T.V. News, even worse. And news media in Europe is also mixing opinion with journalism. And, remember this, opinion is a lot cheaper than a reporter calling and walking and flying to actually get information. Three hours of work might produce a five minute piece. Much cheaper to just have a guy or gal spouting off what they think. So I recommend if people want unbiased news, buy a subscription to a US newspaper.

    And this is creeping into US newspapers, every so slightly. With all the opinion shows on T.V., with such a draw, it is influencing the last hold out for objectivity, the newspaper reporter.

    For those that blatantly mix opinion and reporting, we now have a term: Opinion journalism. I went to a conference with round table discussions with old editors. One of the questions asked was the concern of loss of objective journalism as T.V. cable shows, and some newspapers and others are taking sides, including on the Web. This crusty old man calmly said that it will work itself out naturally in the market place. People will still want to get information. And this is no threat to democracy. Remember, in the 1700s and 1800s, when independent news reporting was new, every newspaper took political sides and every article was an editorial. They used to call people names "scoundrel, yankee" etc. They were rough and every article was printed to promote the editor's political position. They publicly criticized other newspapers, politicians often wrote the articles under a fictitious name and many more things. But in time, the industry changed as there wasn't enough readers and advertisers to support two newspapers (one taking one political side and another taking the other political side). The ones that provided objective news won in the market place.

    Right now, we are in a similar situation. The explosion of cable networks and Internet has brought back the wild west ways of reporting. But the market place will take care of it eventually.

    Tina
  19. Katie

    Katie Guest


    LMAO!

    If Gordon handed out hamburgers to folk he'd probably end up giving someone food poisoning, he can't do much right nowadays.
  20. Martlet

    Martlet Senior Member

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    Here I am in my teal jacket, with my husband, getting my hamburger. We were volunteers at this event. We helped make sure the 200 or so attendees got fed and seated, then Obama fed us. I only managed to get one bite out of the burger before a TV news crew got hold of me, so I wrapped it and shoved it in my shoulder bag, then forgot it was there until next day, so I never ate it. But my husband enjoyed a hot dog and lived.


    [​IMG]

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