Monday, February 27, 2017

What is news, what is not

These days, the term “fake news” is as common as ticks on a stray dog. Especially so on TV news programs. “Fake news” comments, not ticks.

I used to think fake news as something made up. Years ago I would say, “That’s horse hockey. Nobody believes that.”

As the air waves and space waves become more and more filled with more and more electronic voices, though, the world’s billions face more facts and more horse hockey. A lot of that horse hockey reinforces bull hockey political thoughts and movements, so a lot of it is believed. More stuff spoken plus more ears to hear equals more stuff taken as truth.

Much of what is labeled “fake news” contains facts, maybe even truths. That is the way of effective propaganda – a smidgen of facts is required.

Another web site the other day had a piece on how to recognize opinioned news. The easiest way is watch CNN or MSNBC or Fox panel programs. Or PBS, NPR, BBC, RU TV or a legion of others.

Recognition comes from differentiating fact from a writer’s bias.

Here is an example, taken from a piece at moonbattery dot com, about the European Parliament giving its president authority to end live broadcasts if a member says racist things in a speech. The AP story:

“With the specter of populism looming over a critical election year in Europe, the European Parliament has taken an unusual step to crack down on racism and hate speech in its own house.”

There is one news fact in that sentence – this is an election year in Europe. All the rest of it is opinion – “the specter of populism,” “critical election year,” “unusual step,” “crack down on racism and hate speech …”

Moonbattery has three paragraphs of the AP story. Almost all of the story is opinion, not news reporting.

A few days ago, a CNN anchor led off an interview by mentioning “President Trump’s racist statements, anti-woman actions and anti-Muslim laws.” Nothing opinionated there.

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