Post No.: 0064
Don’t be a passive news consumer – actively critique everything you read, see or hear, rather than take things at face value as if the words of journalists, scientists or whoever are ‘indisputable sacred works from unimpeachable authorities’. No one and nothing is beyond critical analysis. Now this doesn’t mean dismissing data or a conclusion just because one simply disagrees with it – it means critiquing people’s e.g. investigative methods, sources, potential conflicts of interests, thoroughness or any cherry-picking of data, and interpretations of results.
Attention is limited and we don’t want to expend any more effort than we think we need to e.g. we scan webpages looking for instant rewards and payoffs, such as the headlines and sub-headers, thinking that they’ll give us the most information with the least effort. Many people barely read beyond the headlines and first paragraphs or two nowadays (especially with many ‘news aggregator services/apps’ collating and presenting only so much to the news consumer without at least another click or two to reach the full story; never mind to reach the sources for that story).
But media headlines tend to sensationalise and over-generalise rather than claim to only speak about the specific case they’re reporting on e.g. a headline that claims that ‘Going to the Gym is Bad For Your Health!’ – when if people actually carefully and fully read the article then they’d realise that it’s only really specifically talking about picking up harmful bacteria from shared gym equipment, which would change one’s course of action from avoiding going to the gym altogether to just ensuring one hygienically wipes all gym equipment before and after use.
‘Press releases’ are also not real journalism but are sent out by companies or individuals who want to promote something (often proper time-pressured journalists just copy-and-paste them without checking out their facts too). Paid-for ‘advertorials’, ‘sponsored content’ and ‘native advertising’ (which are purposely made to look like authentic regular journalism from the news outlet they’re hosted on but are not) are not proper independent, verifiable or accountable journalism either. There are many blurred lines between journalism, promotion, propaganda and/or entertainment nowadays. It can often be hard to distinguish between paid-for adverts or reviews and truly independent information or views. Blogs and columns are also mainly opinion pieces and not true investigative reporting or journalism too (but of course I’m going to say that some blogs are more factual and better for your welfare and wisdom than others!) Woof!
So sometimes it’s hard to discern between what’s real journalism and what are advertorials and other native advertisements that are primarily trying to sell something rather than merely inform, or articles that are paid-for and not independent and impartial pieces, or opinion rather than plain factual reporting pieces. You should check out the author’s name, their role for the news outlet/their employers, the type of piece it is (e.g. reportage, advertorial or column), and even the date of publication – don’t skip these pieces of information, which are normally presented just under the headline or sub-header to the left-hand side of the page. Of course if such information cannot be easily ascertained from the message, page, site or publication – especially a clear indication that a piece is an advert or sponsored piece if it is – then that should already ring alarm bells. It won’t necessarily mean the content of the piece will be full of lies or baloney – as indeed it won’t guarantee that it won’t be even if all this information is made transparent – but it’s something to bear in mind. (Information about me and the purpose and style of this blog can be found in the ‘About’ and ‘Policies’ pages.)
Over time, you’ll also possibly discover a pattern to an author’s views that’ll reveal his/her background and political leanings – this is also something to bear in mind; but yet again this itself won’t necessarily mean the content of a piece will be full of lies or baloney, and this also shouldn’t mean one should avoid reading any more of their works just because one has a different political leaning.
It’s not always about independent, verifiable or accountable journalism or reporting but often about business for both the advertisers and the news outlet. Making money is not itself an immoral thing and is in fact necessary to allow a news outlet to sustain itself, but sometimes it becomes about maximising shareholder value and profits rather than the truth. Where money (e.g. corporate) and/or parochial (e.g. political) interests are involved, truth can sometimes be the casualty. The truth can be twisted, taken out of context, exaggerated, underplayed or left out altogether to create an unfair one-sided picture. (Now is it deception if someone keeps their mouth shut and wasn’t asked the question? Only you can decide for yourself. In the field of psychology, omissions are counted as deceptions e.g. skirting around and avoiding answering a direct question, or hiding a piece of information that is pertinent and important for another party to know.)
I hope you are able to realise that Fluffystealthkitten and Furrywisepuppy have not been trying to sell you anything. In fact, apart from the request for totally voluntary donations (that maybe I should be pushing more within my posts?), there isn’t even any AdSense on this site and there is (at least as of posting) no other source of revenue or sponsorship. Profit maximisation is not the objective and never will be – to inform, inspire thought, spread wonderment, love, peace, health and happiness, with hopefully a bit of fun, is my personal measure of success; and I can emphasise this because the only shareholder to appease at the moment is myself.
Commercial realities and making enough for a sustainable living will catch up with me one day in order for me to carry on with this blog though – but whatever happens, I will always demand last-word control of my content, and keep a controlling share of this blog (well it’s not like anyone else could credibly take over this blog and push me out – this blog is me!) and I will never partner with or promote anyone or anything whom I don’t personally believe in or that I wouldn’t use myself. I hope you’ve found this blog to be like no other you’ve ever come across so far! I cannot say that I’ll never ever promote any external products or brands on this blog or anywhere else but I’ll try to keep any adverts separate from within any posts themselves, at least until after the last woof or meow. Well I suppose that if you, my readers, ever find that the tone and focus, of my posts at least, changes into sounding more like adverts then you’ll let me know by voting with your feedback and attention. Ultimately, you all have the power to decide this blog’s success or failure, and I’ve accepted that from the very start.
Woof! This is just the beginning of our growth into becoming better news consumers, and I’m not afraid to even critique my own industry of blogging. I’m interested to know via the Twitter comment button below if you think this blog is different to other blogs you’ve come across before and whether this is a good or bad thing, and what you think will be acceptable or unacceptable if/when I’ll need to monetise my hard work and dedication?