Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Let's Talk Validity...who you use matters

Okay former students and those of you who just post every report you come across from the net as if it were true...let's talk validity.  I've covered this in various ways before, but I think a few of you need a review.

Valid Sources.  Lets take for example point-of-view.  Point-of-view (POV) is an important aspect of any report.  If your source is from the say "tin foil hat" crowd, their POV is likely to be fairly inaccurate.  Check your writers.  The folks on Conservative papers and TV have an agenda just as do the folks on Liberal Sites.  Do they always mislead you, no.  They do however choose wording very carefully, if they are any good at what they do.  If not, they end up being too extreme even for their sites or TV station.  We'll get to those in a moment.

Let's take election night coverage, for example.

After the race had been called and Romney had done his concession speech, I went channel surfing.  CNN and NBC were going through the numbers, indicators, and what remained. FOX was wondering how on earth Obama had won.  What had he done to win? He was a horrible leader and an abysmal jobs record. was the statement.  MSNBC was discussing if it were now a mandate.  You see each had an agenda.  The mainstream would unpack the election later, for now they were reporting the numbers.  The Conservative press had believed that all the polls were wrong and that Romney was really going to win by a landslide. The Liberal Press were discussing how this met the end of the Republican Congress, even if it didn't.  All three had their purpose but only one was truly nonpartisan.  I am sorry to tell you that because of validity, there is no such thing as only "liberal mainstream media."  That, my friends, is known as loaded words and is a common propaganda technique. If you believe it, you've been duped.

And then there were the extremes...Rush Limbaugh and Carl Rove immediately went off on how the election was crooked and rigged and controlled by the liberal media.  The extreme left, I think maybe it was Howie Martin, but I cannot be sure was talking about the evil men and super-pacs as if they were some sort of super villains needing to be imprisoned by Batman.  They too had their agenda.  It was to stir up the base and scare the crazies.  I didn't have the heart to see what Beck was doing.  I am sorry, someone who is too extreme even for FOX is not someone I would use as a source.  I feel the same way about Olbermann on the left.  Coulter and Limbaugh, who when lacking arguments usually spew the most vial kinds of bigoted remarks, have also made the list of people I don't want to take any ideas from.  Extreme reporting is the new propaganda wing of any party.  They will always be with us but with now 100's  of TV stations, web based shows and talk radio from AM to FM to SIRIUS they are far easier to find and access.  So choosing your source is a very precarious and time consuming aspect.  Looking at the words and the connotation of these words is also a great way to look at validity too.

Once valid sources aren't  editorials and opinion pages are not unbiased sources either.  So how do you know that you are getting nonpartisan information.  Look for sites that still use reporters not pundits.  A small newspaper may give you a starting point, but you need to verify.  VERIFY.  These small papers often don't. They have a set amount of space and sometimes, they indiscriminately just pick things to fill the space. Large papers like The New York Times, The Washington Post, Bloomberg, and The Atlantic  and even The Wall Street Journal are usually good sources and conservative in their reporting.  By conservative I don't mean political leaning but careful in their reporting, erring on caution's side.  Again, do not use the opinion pages.  They may be a starting point but they are far from fact.  For example, during the campaign several of the studies used to support Romney's economic plans were not studies.  They were opinion pieces in the Journal.  With a further check, the authors were actually also members or even advisers to the campaign.  Validity  becomes important.

Look at who political sites attack, besides each other.  My son and I had a discussion once about the "liberal leaning" Politifact. He follows largely conservative talk radio.  I tend to watch MSNBC.  I'm not saying I believe everything they say, I don't.  But they do have a number of reporters and I am far more likely to see a center leaning Republican, yes a few do exist, than I am likely to see a center leaning Democrat on FOX. I'm sorry, but when Saturday Night Live can use your actual words to create a skit, you are in serious trouble with your validity.  I digress.

My son's point was that conservative radio had continually pointed to Politifact as liberal media.  What I found interesting was liberal radio, even Obama's own team, had recently attacked Politifact for being too conservative.  If both sides are attacking the same group...then they are probably as close to nonpartisan in information as you will find.  Another of our discussion was about a source I'd used who had written at one point for a liberal paper and who was now working at The Atlantic.  This brings up an interesting situation.  Do you go with the writer's POV or the POV of the paper.

Two things need to be considered. First the nature and placement of the report and secondly if there are others who have reported the same.  In this case I had both.  I had at least two other sources verifying The Atlantic report and The Atlantic has a reputation to protect.  In other words, a reporter answers to an editor who answers to a publisher.  If that publisher has built a reputation on nonpartisan reporting, then the editor will protect it regardless the leanings of the reporter. This is why there is why the "liberal media" is more propaganda than truth.  A reporter may be liberal or even conservative, but they are to separate their own POV from the news they report and to make sure this happens, there are editors, producers, directors, department chairs and even lawyers to make sure this happens.  A few stories may squeak through but they are far from the majority.  Some even argue that the equity  in reporting idea actually gets in the way of reporting.

This is one of the reasons that FOX has issues being taken seriously by much of the media.  Rupert Murdoch who owns FOX is known for two things: his conservative, some might say extreme conservative, point of view and his papers which print sensational stories.  You may remember the British newspapers getting in trouble for hacking into cell phones.  Guess who owns the papers...Murdoch.  The editors for Murdoch's media empire have very clear instructions as to what they need to do.  The Wallstreet Journal, also owned by Murdoch, has a very conservative opinion page.  The rest of the paper which is a standard for business  is more carefully monitored because it too has a reputation to protect.

So before you post a news report, consider it's source.  I might get an idea from Mother Jones, but I would never consider them a valid source until I verified.  There are a few out there that are just out there.  The Enquirer might be fun to read, but their reporting is to say the least substandard.  So the next time you post something from The Blaze or from Mother Jones, consider the source.  You know I will, just before I hide such trash from my timeline on Facebook.

If you want answers, then you will need to take the time to find your own.  The truth is seldom black and white, but that doesn't mean its indistinguishable from fact.