What are the disadvantages of getting your news from the television? This article points out some reasons why television news isn't all it's cracked up to be.TV News: Turn It Off And Get A Better Picture Of The World
Television news programs are just about the worst way to get news for two important reasons.
1) Television itself inhibits the functioning of left brain rational analysis.
2) The television media has become centralized into a few huge media conglomerates.
Most people are aware of the consolidation of the media industry. However, people are only dimly aware of TV's inhibition of left brain functioning. Try this experiment. Right now. Critically review three of the news stories you watched on TV last night. Ready. Set. Go!
So, only a few perspectives are presented on the TV news, and when viewers like yourself watch this news, they are inhibited from logically analyzing the stories. That is terrible news for democracy. Democracy needs informed citizens that can analyze and discuss different views of a situation.
I use a few simple guidelines to get a picture of what is going on in the world. These do require a little more effort than parking in front of a TV set and mindlessly absorbing the images, but not too much more.
Reading is more efficient
The first step is to start reading, instead of watching, your news. Television generally takes a lot of time to get across a little bit of information. With reading you can absorb information much faster. A five minute story on the news can be read online or in the newspaper generally in less than a minute. The spare time can be used to analyze the story.
Get several quality news sources
The next step in developing a good picture of the world is to get several good news sources. Begin with a mainstream newspaper or website to simply get an idea of the basic issues that are at stake.
Then, select a couple of alternative news sources outside the mainstream. I am not going to recommend a particular source, because I do not wish to become engaged in liberal/conservative partisan discussions. These distinctions start to fall away once you start to analyze the news for yourself anyway.
Analyze the information
The next step is simply to start critically viewing the material that you read. Does it make logical sense? Are there inconsistencies? Does the story change from one day to the next? Are there any patterns to events? Finally, the most important question to ask for any given situation is: who benefits? Rarely do events happen by chance in the world and asking that one, little question can lead to much greater understanding of any situation. Put that left brain into hyper-drive.
Find original sources and witnesses
If there are inconsistencies or notable patterns, it is time to start researching. Whenever possible it is best to go to the source of an issue. For example, if the government passes a new law about security, don’t waste time watching or reading the petty analyses of pundits. Find a copy of the law! Do not rely on someone else to give an interpretation. The internet makes it much easier to find source documents.
The recent Terri Schiavo case demonstrates the need for going to source documents. There are medical documents that are copied at www.hospicepatients.org, and court document links can be found at AbstractAppeal.com. Viewers who relied solely on the TV news may feel differently about this case once they peruse these documents.
Also--whenever possible--find witnesses to an event. First person accounts can give a far more accurate and moving picture than one that is filtered through the mainstream media. These accounts must be critically analyzed, of course. Diveaid.co.uk has several gripping accounts of the tsunami last year by some dive instructors who survived.
Put the news into context
Finally, it is essential to put the information into context—political, historical, social, and even geographical. If necessary, do some research. This step may take the most effort, but it is also the most rewarding.
For example, in 1990 anyone who had a basic knowledge of the history of Yugoslavia knew that it was a virtual powder keg, just waiting for a psychopath to come and light it. That is exactly what happened with Mr. Milosevic and the subsequent wars in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo.
Respond to the world with new-found confidence
Follow these general guidelines and, not only will you become better informed about world events and situations, you will also become a better citizen: better prepared and ready to act with confidence in the political arena.
TV Turn-off Week (April 25-May 1) is a great opportunity to test these principles. If you are going to be one of the millions of families who turn off their TV's that week, try using these principles to get your news for that one week. Then see if you feel better informed on May 1.
Chaos and the Meaning of Electric Culture by Frank Zingrone
Katherine Westphal is the founder of a daring new website, TrashYourTV.com, that makes it fun and easy for people to get control of their TV set. Are you addicted to TV? Take our TV Addiction Quiz and find out!