Friday, March 13, 2015

A Reminder Not To Rely On the National Media for Facts~

While we like to imagine those who report the news report the facts, in reality reporters interpret what they see and hear through their own filters and biases. Newspapers are actually better than televised media because print media tends to identify “opinion” as “opinion” or editorial. There is little differentiation of such in the televised or online media. In fact I have zero faith in the legitimacy of broadcast “news” media, which appears to tilt towards sensationalism and trying to sway the viewing public to a certain viewpoint.

I’ve fallen victim myself – particularly when it comes to national or international news stories. But I was forced to re-evaluate my reliance on our regular news outlets yet again this week.

I work in an industry that involves litigation, disagreements, disparate evidence and diametrically opposed expert opinions; yet, I’ve found myself listening spellbound to talking heads who allegedly “know the inside scoop” on a major news event and convey to audiences what is purportedly the “truth”. But that truth is really a skewed view based upon that news outlets or reporters preconceived notions.

A case in point: I was discussing a Florida matter with an attorney this week and we were musing about the reliability or lack of faith in the US judicial system. I commented that whenever I have a customer who expresses faith in the concept of a “jury of one’s peers” that they consider “Casey Anthony” – as an example of a travesty of justice. But my friend, who I thought would nod in agreement, instead told me that her husband had attended the entire trial and conveyed that the evidence against Ms. Anthony was thin, weak, lacked substance, and could not convince any thoughtful human being that she was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Wow! That hit me like a ton of bricks. I’d made an assumption, based upon reports from the mainstream media, that there was uncontroversial evidence, ignored by the jury, of her guilt. I’d been sucked into the vortex of swirling media speculation and opinion based upon what the talking heads wanted us to believe.

Based upon the conversation with my friend and I convinced Casey Anthony is innocent? No. But I am reminded that I accept what is fed to me by biased reporters trying to sensationalize stories and reel in viewers to their networks at my own risk; that I have a duty as a citizen to conduct my own research and look beyond the sensationalism. Ultimately, we all have to understand that unless we are witnesses to an event or sit on a jury privy to all of the evidence, or read the transcripts of a proceeding, we do not have sufficient knowledge to form an opinion.

Please try to remember this the next time you hear about a sensational story on CNN or Fox or NBC.  Consider that nobody has all of the answers but those who were there. Neither the police or the reporters or the EMTs or the experts know what really happened. And any party to a dispute only interprets what happened from his or her own perspective.  So, don’t be quick to judge. I will try to remember this.

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