Now that I am back in the US, I joined the local Planet Fitness. And as I did the reclining bike for the first time, two news stations were on the TV monitors in front of me.
And was I ever shocked by what I saw! Shocked enough that I moved over 3 bikes to block them out.
You see, I gave up watching cable news years ago. And I couldn’t believe the raw editorializing that I saw and also undocumented claims to truth. This does deep harm to our country, as one scholar says: ““If we’re no longer operating from the same foundation of facts, then it’s going to be a lot harder to have conversations as a country…It will fuel more divisions in our country, and I think that ultimately is the legacy of the misinformation we’re seeing right now.”
Now, I would hate to be That Guy, who humble-brags that he doesn’t even own a television (I do, and watch it way too much).
But I get almost all my news from Associated Press, which has an excellent reputation for being very relatively non-partisan and factually reliable. I say “very relatively” non-partisan and reliable, since it is humanly impossible to be absolutely without bias or error. Associated Press is tied with Reuters for reliability, but I prefer AP because of its nice app.
Will anyone accept this challenge for 2022?
A FAST from digital or cable “news” outlets for 3 months. AND ALSO “news” from Twitter or Facebook or YouTube or any outlet that is ungoverned by standard journalistic principles and ethics.
LIMIT yourself to print wire services, perhaps Reuters or AP.
AND USE your own eyes and ears to tell you WHAT is going on in the world and WHAT it means. Use common sense. Have discernment.
I guess that within 3 months your view of the world will change. You will be calmer and feel less threatened. Less frightened about what “they want to do to me if they had half a chance.” Especially if you currently feel anxiety about turning off the news because, “Then I won’t know what is really going on in the world and what it means!”
NOTE: What is the most “mainstream” news source? Despite their implication to the contrary, it’s Fox News. In December 2021 it was far and away the most watched source, with more viewers than CNN and MSNBC combined.
“A Challenge for 2022 – a Fast from Cable News,” by Gary S. Shogren, PhD from Aberdeen University
So, maybe it is like this. If you’ve been feasting only on cable “news,” fasting is a really good idea – an excellent challenge to consider. But it might not be the recipe for everyone. Maybe some ought to watch enough cable news (of all varieties) in order to be informed of various segments of our culture and understand the various commentaries on the news. At the same time, your point as to what should be considered to be news and what is not news – that is a worthy point. Too many think that because they’ve watched cable commentary, they’ve therefore been informed of the news.
Hi everyone: some have suggested that rather than left or right, we should look to the center. I wanted to raise an objection to that, but AllSides has beaten me to it!
For me it would be enough to have open dialogue without name calling. Debate forces everyone to think, which is half the fight.
I half-agree with you. I have seen plenty of debates sans name-calling, and not everyone was thinking.
It’s a start.
Could you explain what is meant by “cable news” in the US? Cable TV is common in the UK, but the channels are basically the same as what you get from satellite TV and, since the advent of digital terrestrial TV in the early 2000s, the same as what you get through the aerial. Is cable TV less regulated in the US than terrestrial and satellite TV? Are there terrestrial news channels that are more reliable than cable news? Or is “cable news” synonymous with “TV news”?
Are the news channels there ever forced to give on-air statements rectifying false information they have previously shared, or are they covered to say anything they like under freedom-of-speech laws?
Hi Tim! “Cable news” is a semi-technical term in US jargon, meaning a news outlet that is only or almost only available on cable or satellite, as opposed to outlets that are available as broadcasts. In the US, the top three are Fox, then MSNBC, then CNN, but there are many others.
As you surmise, cable programming is not as heavily overseen (by the FCC, the Federal Communications Commission) as are broadcast ones. And no outlet is required to publish corrections. The good ones do, some hardly ever do, and then you have the ones who technically correct themselves, but in some dark corner.
It is also harder to sue someone for slander in the US, harder than in the UK. First Amendment rights – and I am a near-absolutist on freedom of speech – mean that slander suits are a rare bird in our courts.
I agree with your assessment, but I handle it in a different way. I don’t watch any of the commentary shows, and the only online news I get is morning briefings from Fox and PBS. It is interesting to compare the content and emphasis. I also get get a digital copy of the local “paper” for local happenings. If somethings strikes me as questionable I Google it. That process, along with the counsel of the Holy Spirit, works well for me. Proverbs 3:5-6
Sounds good, and if you look up the analysis of news credibility, PBS is very high.
Yes, absolutely, the Holy Spirit. But the human mind being what it is, once we saturate it with a particular political narrative, it is highly probable that we will mistake for the Holy Spirit the inner “it seems right in my heart.”
Gary, I plan to take your challenge and keep only my Wall Street Journal App (only $4 a month). And maybe check the World magazine site from time to time. Does that meet your criteria? DENNIS CAHILL
Dennis, hi! Well, it’s all up to the individual to decide! Gary
Good article Gary. Unfortunately it’s impossible to avoid media bias, so I’ve found it prudent to consume news from multiple sources. The AllSides Media Bias Chart is helpful: https://www.allsides.com/media-bias/media-bias-ratings. Also check out their Fact Check Bias Chart: https://www.allsides.com/media-bias/fact-check-bias-chart. Interesting that AP and NPR are rated centrist for news but left of center on fact checking (I find that they tend to lean left on story selection & omission). BBC is less provincial and is rated center on both and is a good source for international news. I also like The Dispatch which is slightly right of center on news but centrist for fact checking (they tend to lean right of center on social issues but are very professional, even handed and scrupulous on reporting accuracy).
I haven’t used The Dispatch, will check it out! Gary
I worry that this isn’t anywhere near enough. The fast may remove some of the intake, but the reactions are almost impossible to filter out. The news void is easily filled through social media memes, headlines of unread articles, family and friends. Instead of hearing fox or cnn’s commentary laden shows, we hear our echo chamber’s reactions and sensationalized accounts of them.
There are a LOT of loose data floating around. The only person who I suspect is really unmoored is the one who claims to be able to think with pure objectivity.
My story is kind of like yours, except I wasn’t in Costa Rica. The cable is still connected to my house, but I’ve been too busy watching children’s TV programs with my kids (if I watch anything) apart from baseball during that season (St Louis Cardinals if anyone wants to know). And yes, some Netflix and Prime movies.
So, having had some wiithdrawal, more like a period of three years rather than three months, I too have experienced some shock when I’ve checked back in from time to time. Recently someone told me: If only MSNBC, CNN and FOX would just “shut up!” But of course they won’t, However, as you suggest, we don’t have to listen to them. We have a choice. So yes, good challenge!
I totally agree with the irony of Fox talking heads constantly denouncing the media, as though they themselves are somehow not media.
I do wonder if it would be helpful to make one distinction or clarification: If I am just watching the actual news portions of those networks, I get the feeling that any of them might actually be helpful in being informed of what is going on in the world. It is all the rest of the stuff that is aired (the endless commentaries of Hannity, Carlson or whoever) where the vast amount of bias and unproven statements are made. I’d be curious as to your perspective on that.
Nice to have you back, by the way. I’d love to get together sometime.
Hi Ron, When a cable news network regularly mixes opinion, false data, and dependable news, the viewer tends to see it as one whole piece. Besides which – since you brought up Fox News, not I! – Fox News is considered to be skewed rightward even in it’s “pure news”. The other day, in a throwaway line, Tucker Carlson, with no evidence, announced that Biden will not let unvaccinated people vote in the Nov 2022 election. “But it could be!” is not the same as “Here is hard evidence.” It’s not journalism. I looked up some examples from this AM but will only list one: the headline “Bizarre’ promotion of Secretary of State’s Spotify playlist relentlessly mocked: ‘Humiliating'”. This is not news, nor even conservative-driven news, but tabloid press.
Lest I be misunderstood, let me be clear that I used to be a fan of the Fox News Channel. I no longer am. I always thought that Brit Hume, Charles Krauthammer and Chris Wallis had things to say that were worth consideration. Either they or I have changed or both. (Hume is retired I think, Krauthammer is deceased and Wallis went to CNN). And yes, totally agree that Carlson and journalism should not appear in the same sentence.
Just one thing that has me scratching my head. You say “you brought up Fox News, not I!” I don’t understand, especially since your post does say “Fox News” in the content of the text and also in the graphic.
Hi Ron, I don’t mean I didn’t mention Fox at all, along with CNN and MSNBC, in particular what is their audience share. I meant that you brought up the example of Tucker Carlson et al. Blessings, Gary