A question that merits a response, especially in political campaign seasons: What do you know and how do you know it?
On a daily basis, metric tons of information are thrown about as God’s honest truth, and much of it is the equivalent of owl pellets, only from bulls. You know what I mean.
I regularly share a story from one of my first days in my college Basic Reporting class. The professor, Bill Bridges, had been an editor at the Louisville Courier-Journal, one of the best papers in the country. As we waited for Bill to impart some knowledge, he served up this gem: If your mother tells you she loves you, get a second source. In other words, don’t believe anything on its surface and always seek confirmation.
Today people believe anything they read on social media or hear on their carefully selected “endorse my mindset” media outlets. Check the source? There’s no time for that when you have to repeat or repost that drivel and add your own snarky two cents’ worth to drive home the point – as misguided as it is. To steal one of my favorite lines from 1990s one-hit wonder MC 900-Foot Jesus, “Truth is out of style.”
So the question again is, “What do you know and how do you know it?” Some people are joined at the eyeballs to Fox News, while others sink a MSNBC transfusion line into their media arteries. Neither provides news in its truest sense – both serve up carefully selected and bullhorn-blasted commentary in the guise of news. The same is true with Breitbart, Daily Kos, Drudge Report and scores of other online media outlets.
Our media landscape has been overrun by partisan pander patches for one simple reason: Shilling a party line is good for the bottom line. Today, American news consumers (when you can find people who are actually interested in civics) want their preconceived notions of the world endorsed regularly so they don’t have to do the hard work of thinking something through and – egads! – possibly admitting the other side might have a good point.
A lesson I learned long ago is to read and watch multiple reports on a news event or issue and where the stories intersect is where you will find the truth. But that takes time and effort, two things seemingly in short supply. In addition, multiple reports on an event or issue also are in short supply because media companies killed their business model when the Internet was born; too many people now expect to get their content for free, and reduced revenue means reduced coverage.
“What do you know and how do you know it?” Is the information source trustworthy? What is their motivation to provide truly fair, ethical, accurate and complete information? Or are they bankrolled by backers and businesses with vested interests in information being presented in ways to push an agenda favorable to their bottom line?
If you are content with information being packaged to suit your political leanings, know that you are only getting half the story, at best. You deserve better, as do we all. The question is whether we ever again will stand up and demand it.
Bob Satnan is the communications director for Sedalia School District 200.