Like many Americans lately, I have been glued to the all-day news channels. My favorite is CNN: Chris Cuomo, Jake Tapper, Anderson Cooper, and Don Lemon are my best friends now; they don’t know it!
It took a few days of watching before the network’s slogan penetrated the fog that election stress had caused on my brain. CNN says they are “The most trusted name in news.”
“I am sure because I am confident in the idea of the United States of America. I believe that the combination of checks and balances and a free press and our democratically elected representatives will expose charlatans. I believe in the good sense of the American people, and I know in my soul that truth will win out.” ― Jake Tapper
There has been a lot of distrust thrown around regarding media, news outlets, and journalists lately. It got me wondering a few things:
- Do most people watch the news? Or are they reading articles?
- What determines whether a piece of information is credible and are most people checking facts and news sources before they share something on social media?
- Who can we trust out there?
Watching the news vs. reading articles
I have written several articles on staying sane amidst election chaos or other political noise. The most consistent advice is to unplug and be aware of how much information you consume and where it comes from.
This was the primary reason I preferred to read the news once or twice a day, and the only thing I would watch would be live videos of press conferences as they happened. This did a lot to limit the bias and merge the information into a manageable piece of information that didn’t make my brain leak out my ears.
That all went right out the window as soon as election coverage started. I suddenly turned into a 37-year-old female version of my grandfather, who used to have the news on every time the TV was on.
If you are wondering, CNN is channel 202 on DirecTV. Don Lemon is hilarious and slightly snarky. Anderson Cooper fires off burns you don’t see coming because he looks so classy.
Cuomo makes me miss my New York Italian roots. And Tapper is the best of the best and isn’t afraid to ask the hard questions. As I said, I invite these people over every night now for coffee and cake; they just don’t know it.
I was reminded that without watching the news, I didn’t have the opportunity to see them interview people and push to get answers. Reading an article doesn’t give you that.
According to a Hollywood Reporter/Morning Consult survey, the most trusted news anchor is Lester Holt from NBC Nightly News. Anderson Cooper comes in at second place. The top ten most trusted anchors are:
- Lester Holt (NBC)
- Anderson Cooper (CNN)
- Robin Roberts (ABC)
- David Muir (ABC)
- Brian Williams (MSNBC)
- Harris Faulkner (FOX)
- George Stephanopoulos (ABC)
- Andrea Mitchell (NBC)
- Chris Wallace (FOX)
- Gayle King (CBS)
That is quite an impressive list of journalists. These people air their interviews on TV, and the process is quite transparent. They ask someone a question, and then that person answers. There is usually a subsequent discussion about the nuances of what they said.
How does this become something that people doubt happened? When I watch a video of someone saying something, and then they claim they didn’t say, but I watched it on the news, it is not the media whose integrity I question.
“It struck me that there is a reason James Madison put freedom of speech and freedom of the press in the very first amendment. If we can’t speak out, if we cannot challenge those in power, there is no guaranteeing the rights that follow.” ― Jonathan Karl
What is a credible news source?
It seems prudent in today’s environment that we establish what a credible news source is. Vicki Krueger at Poynter offers us a checklist of questions that we can ask when evaluating the news’s credibility (whether we are watching it or reading it). These nine questions are:
- Who is the source? Is it clear and concise?
- What would this source know? Are they trained in the field they are speaking about?
- How recent is the information that the source is sharing?
- Where did the source ascertain this knowledge? Is it first hand?
- Why did the network/reporter/writer use this news source?
- Is the reporting transparent? Can it be verified?
- How does the source know this information? Is it coming from government records or official documents?
- What kind of reputation does this news source have? Have they been reliable in the past?
- Is there an ulterior motive? Does the source have something to gain or lose?
These are a great place to start when deciding what type of information to expose yourself to. Here is a hint, if the source is a discredited computer scientist trying to explain virology to you, you might want to find a more credible source.
Also, that guy from high school who barely graduated, but shares memes and YouTube videos daily, is probably not your best option. Look for well-respected experts, who usually get interviewed on the news.
“The only difference between being uninformed and misinformed is that one is your choice and the other is theirs.” ― Frank Sonnenberg
Who can you trust?
With a plethora of options out there, it can become challenging to know who to trust. Finding a credible source should be the bare minimum of steps taken. Don’t share something on social media without fact-checking it first. It only takes a few seconds but will help combat misinformation.
Watch the press conferences, speeches, and any other updates live if you can. This way, you can watch the whole situation unfold and have the benefit of context, instead of just a clip—context matters, especially within the media.
It is also essential to recognize that not trusting a news source is not the same as distrusting a news source. The distinction is minor, but it makes a difference. I might not prefer Fox News and might find another channel more trustworthy, but I believe Fox to be reputable and not fake.
“No custodian of the truth should have to fear their deliverance of the facts.” ― Jacob Riggs
‘Fake News’ might be the most dangerous term of the 2000s
“Try to be pleasant to one another, get plenty of fresh air, read a good book now and then, depose your government when it suspends the free press, try to use the mechanism of the state to adjudicate fairly and employ diplomatic means wherever possible to avoid armed conflict.”― Jasper Fforde
Personal bias between commentators or news anchors is one thing. Even a biased network is acceptable. They are still reporting the facts, just with their understanding and spin. Terms like ‘alternative facts’ and ‘fake news’ only increased the seeds of distrust and angst throughout the nation.
Chris Ratcliffe explains, “Not only do different people have opposing views about the meaning of ‘fake news,’ in practice the term undermines the intellectual values of democracy—and there is a real possibility that it means nothing. We would be better off if we stopped using it.”
Please stop using it, I beg you. Just because you dislike something or disagree with something does not make it fake. The freedom of the press mattered so much to the nation’s function of democracy that it is the first amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
According to Constitution Annotated, Justice Stewart has argued, “That the First Amendment speaks separately of freedom of speech and freedom of the press is no constitutional accident, but an acknowledgment of the critical role played by the press in American society. The Constitution requires sensitivity to that role, and to the special needs of the press in performing it effectively.”
However you choose to stay abreast of current events; please know that the news source matters. The words we use matter. The voices we fill our heads with make a difference. Seek out experts and knowledge, defend the press, hold them accountable when necessary, but let them do their jobs.
“Now more than ever, journalists have a crucial role to perform in the society. You may say, haven’t they been playing that role from the very beginning! Yes, they have been doing it for a long time, since the birth of printing press, but never in history, could their failure mean devastation in their community caused by their false and illegitimate counterparts.”― Abhijit Naskar