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Don’t Be Brainwashed by the News Media

Each society and culture has a unique worldview. This worldview shapes
what people see and how they see it. It shapes perceptions and beliefs. News
media across the world reflect the worldview of their own culture. This is
true both because those who work in national news media share the same
views as their readers and because they need to sell what people within the
culture want to buy. They need to present the news in ways that are palatable
and interesting to their audience so as to increase their profits. In the book
The News About the News, Downie and Kaiser present the problems as
follows:
“ The national television networks have trimmed their
reporting staffs and closed foreign reporting bureaus to cut
their owners’ costs. They have tried to attract viewers by
diluting their expensive newscasts with lifestyle, celebrity,
and entertainment features, and by filling their lowbudget,
high-profit, prime time ‘newsmagazines’ with
sensational sex, crime, and court stories” (New York: Knopf,
2002), p.19
Mainstream news coverage in any culture operates on the following
(often unconscious) maxims:
• “This is how it appears to us from our point of view; therefore, this
is the way it is.”
• “These are the facts that support our way of looking at this;
therefore, these are the most important facts.”
• “These countries are friendly to us; therefore, these countries deserve
praise.”
• “These countries are unfriendly to us; therefore, these countries
deserve criticism.”
• “These are the stories most interesting or sensational to our readers;
therefore, these are the most important stories in the news.”

But the truth of what is happening in the world is far more complicated
than what appears true to people in any culture.
If you do not recognize bias in your nation’s news; if you cannot detect
ideology, slant, and spin; if you cannot recognize propaganda when exposed
to it, you cannot reasonably determine what media messages have to be
supplemented, counterbalanced, or thrown out entirely. These insights are
crucial to becoming a critical consumer of the news media and developing
skills of media analysis.
Strategies for seeing through the news media:
1. Study alternative perspectives and worldviews, learning how to
interpret events from the perspective of multiple views.
2. Seek understanding and insight through multiple sources of
thought and information, not simply those of the mass media.
3. Learn how to identify the viewpoints embedded in news stories.
4. Mentally rewrite (reconstruct) news stories through awareness of
how they would be told from multiple perspectives.
5. See news stories as one way of representing reality (as some blend
of fact and interpretation).
6. Assess news stories for their clarity, accuracy, relevance, depth,
breadth, and signifi cance.
7. Notice contradictions and inconsistencies in the news (often in
the same story).
8. Notice the agenda and interests a story serves.
9. Notice the facts covered and the facts ignored.
10. Notice what is represented as fact that should be presented as
debatable.
11. Notice assumptions implicit in stories.
12. Notice what is implied but not openly stated.
13. Notice what implications are ignored and what are highlighted.
14. Notice which points of view are systematically presented favorably
and which are presented unfavorably.

15. Mentally correct stories that refl ect bias toward the unusual, the
dramatic, and the sensational by putting them into perspective or
discounting them.
16. Notice when social conventions and taboos are used to define
issues and problems as unethical.