John Seven | Commentary: Use the information at your fingertips wisely
NORTH ADAMS >> I've been reading a lot this week about the failures of the media, about how its choice of coverage is to blame for the sorry and scary state of this presidential election.
This is a very sad bit of whining, sadder still for our inability to accept blame for our own ignorance.
We walk around all day carrying these computers that we prefer to call "phones." We stare into the phones most of the time, it seems, even when we walk down city streets, even when we drive. On these phones, you can access news and analysis from literally any publication in the world. You can access thousands of radio stations, television stations, podcasts. If you look at a few sources, you can get a reasonably well-rounded analysis of what is going on. It is at our fingertips.
What is it that we are staring at in our phones? Apparently not actual information. If we were, we wouldn't complain so much about what we perceive as skewed information. We wouldn't complain about too much press coverage for Donald Trump or the lack thereof for Bernie Sanders. We would just seek out the information ourselves and ignore what any given segment of the media wants to feed us.
We are not babies. We can feed ourselves.
Television is the biggest problem. A lot of the complaining has to do with what television news covers. I'll reveal to you this secret — television does not feature news, it features entertainment which is sometimes delivered in a news format.
And I'm not just talking about Fox or MSNBC. "The Daily Show" is not a news show. It is a comedy-entertainment show that uses news for its laughs. It is a political comedy show. You cannot get information from "The Daily Show," or other shows like it, and assume that you are getting actual news.
Forget television for your political information and stop complaining about what we already know anyhow.
Online, it can be tricky. There's a new form of journalism that isn't so much reporting the news as commenting on the news as reported by other sources. I like to call it "leech journalism." It consists of cut and pastes of from the other sources, with guided commentary on how to interpret the news. There are no first-hand sources in this kind of reporting, and it is pretty common online. This is practiced by conservatives and liberals.
I don't oppose this kind of news source, but I do oppose making these your only news source. You should choose a variety. You should make sure to include a couple that do not necessarily subscribe to your political views, because it's good to see how other people think, even if you disagree.
Despite the level of mistrust the American public registers about the mainstream media, they are also quick to blame that same media for their own inability to seek out alternate sources. It's a strange way to live, criticizing something as incompetent and even corrupt, and then complaining when it doesn't seem impartial, and even comes off as manipulative.
If you don't know the candidates running for president, I'm going to be bold here and suggest that's your own fault. That's one of the easiest bits of information to find out. If your candidate has not connected with an audience as strongly as you would wish, I'm going to suggest that is because your candidate hasn't been creative in reaching out and has been too dependent on the notoriously reliable mainstream media.
And if the mainstream media has been pushing a sideshow instead of the issues? That's what entertainment businesses do. Stop giving them ratings and money.
Contact John Seven at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @damnjohnseven.
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