The right way to use consume news media

The latest Media Bias Chart shows nicely one of the challenges that exist with the current use of news media platforms. If you want to get analysis and opinion – you usually need to “pay” with unreliability and a partisan view. I want to explain why this leads to a poor understanding of reality, and that if you want to have a true understanding of the world – you must consume news media from opposite views. That means, for example, watching both Fox News and CNN.

Get your evidence right

When a person wants to understand the truth about something, or the valid arguments regarding an event, he must initially get all the correct facts. The problem is that there are inherent failures that cause many media platforms to miss some of the relevant facts.

One reason is that people tend to not fact-check things they agree with. Every reporter might go through some fact-checking process before publishing his article – but because they don’t necessarily have the resources to do an extensive fact-checking process to everything, they are most likely to focus on evidence that seems suspicious – which will not be the things they naturally agree with. This gets amplified when talking about facts that are harder to verify – the reporter is most likely to assume that things that support his point of view are correct. 

Second reason is the access to facts. Lots of reporters rely on think-tanks and charities for information. But because they usually have warmer relationships with organizations that support their point of view, they are most likely to have lots of evidence that supports their point of view, and very limited amounts of evidence that contradicts it.

By consuming two differing news media outlets – you are most likely to get all of your facts correct, and more likely to recognize when a reporter did a bad job and missed some of the relevant facts.

Take into accounts all of the different arguments

The reality is usually much more complex than you think. Regarding every issue, there are lots of valid arguments for both sides – and the only way to get all of them is to consume opposing news media platforms.

Let’s take the Israeli-Palestine conflict for example. Watching CNN, the arguments you are most likely to read about how Israeli attacks are not proportional, that many Palestinians children died, and how poor the situation is in the Gaza strip. Watching Fox News, you will most likely read about the rockets being fired at Israel, about Hamas using citizens as human shields and aiming directly to kill citizens. If you try to assess who is “right” and who is “wrong”, you have to hear all of the arguments – missing an important argument might lead you to the wrong conclusion.

Overcoming annoyance

One of the challenges of the consumption I recommend here, is that it’s sometimes “annoying” reading the things we don’t agree with. People many times “promise to boycott” the news media or personally attack the reporter, if they read something that they really don’t agree with. These actions are, as explained above, counterproductive and leads to a poorer understanding of reality.

What I recommend doing to overcome it is trying firstly to be specific. Try to understand exactly where the missing logical link, the missing argument or the missing fact. This might already calm you down, thinking – OK, they just don’t know this piece of information, and that’s why they are likely to be wrong regarding this issue. Secondly, remind yourself that you are here only to learn new things – ask yourself – did you learn something new about the subject? Even if it didn’t change your mind or that the argument was “annoying”, maybe it did include an interesting fact that now makes you understand the situation better.

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