“How do I know what’s right if I can’t trust the news?”

I run into this circular logic quite a bit. It’s circular because it’s used by a person to justify trusting media that even that person is skeptical of trusting.

The logic is, well it’s hard to to do the research myself, and finding the right facts might not be possible anyway because every place has its bias, so, golly gee, I guess I just have to trust the media, what else can I do?

There’s another, tried and true way that was handed down through generations: take everything with a grain of salt.

As Wikipedia defines the phrase: “…view something, specifically claims that may be misleading or unverified, with skepticism or to not interpret something literally.”

And, here’s another important part: be comfortable with that.

Be comfortable with living in a space where you can say, “I know what I heard (or read), but I’m skeptical, rightly so, because stories can be tricky and because I may not see all the tricks. I don’t know the whole story, so I’ll withhold judgement. And, I may never know the whole story.”

I saw a good example of this type trickiness yesterday. The headline read: “[So-and-so] will benefit from a law critics call [Blankity Blank].”

Marketing and journalism students learn in their strategic communications (stratcom) courses that most folks will gloss over ‘critics call’ and just remember the headline as saying: “[So-so] will benefit from the [Blankity Blank] law.”

They especially do this if they already want to believe something negative about the law.

And, for those that don’t yet have an opinion, the headline serves to associate something negative with the law in their minds. Notice, the headline didn’t mention what supporters of the law call it.

If some readers do some research and find out that they disagree with what critics call the law, then accuse the media outlet of a misleading headline, the media outlet will defend itself with, “The headline is accurate. Critics really do call it that. We never said whether that was accurate. That’s for you to decide.”

They are right. The trick here was that folks assume the media outlet validated what critics call it, or they would not have put it in the headline.

But they didn’t need to validate to meet their standard of reporting a fact, because all they reported is what media call it. Readers jumped to the conclusion that was accurate.

In other words, it’s not our fault, it’s yours. Read what we lilterally wrote, not what you thought it said (even though you interpreted it exactly as we hoped!).

And, I agree with them here. This is why you should take everything with a grain of salt and be comfortable with that.



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