You might be wondering what I do then to filter the news. If everyone is truly biased in one way or another, how do we go about intelligently interacting with the media especially on controversial issues and not sharing bad information? I have two suggestions today and will have two more on Friday.
Find the Primary Source
As an example of this, when the Planned Parenthood videos surfaced last year, there was obviously no shortage of commentary about what incriminating comments were or were not in the video. I decided that I wanted to publish a response to these videos, but when I cited sources in my response, I cited primary sources only.
Everyone has played the game Telephone where by the end of the line the original message has been mangled beyond recognition. Passing on secondhand sources is very similar.
Then, what good would have my commentary been if I did not refer to the specific parts of the videos that were disturbing? How would my article have been helpful if I did not refer to the specific parts of the law that were reportedly broken in these videos?
You can see my article at Secular Pro-Life, but I used primary sources in my response for this reason. It is not that passing on articles is wrong, but check the primary sources as well to make sure that their interpretation seems to match with the actual evidence.
This point goes along with the necessity of finding primary sources, but it is very important to make sure that the article honestly reports the context of a situation. To again refer to the Planned Parenthood videos, the main accusation against the videos was that they were highly edited and purposely deceptive.
Therefore, when I published my response, I decided to only operate from the unedited transcripts. Not only that, but for the parts that I was citing, I watched the unedited videos to make sure that the transcriptionist did not alter the context in any way.
As another example, I watched every debate of the Democratic and Republican primaries this year. Why did I watch them live? I wanted to hear the candidates rather than the spin on the morning talk shows. A terrible one line news clip could be the only weak moment out of a brilliant speech, but I wouldn’t understand that if I didn’t know the entire context of the conversation.
We don’t want to stumble into a hole where we are accusing people of saying things that they never really said. That doesn’t reflect well on anyone.
Please come back on Friday for two more tips as to how we can interact intelligently with media and do more than just spread rumors based in ignorance.