Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Things They Should Invent: journalistic ethics addressing people who only skim the headlines

Several times recently I have seen situations where people who are normally quite sensible have just skimmed an article or caught a glance of a headline without absorbing the whole thing, and then have taken away only the sensationalism of the headline or someone's spin on the issue, without a sense of the situation as a whole. I know, it happens to everyone sometimes, it's happened to me.

But the reason I'm concerned is because I can think of more than one case where a normally-sensible person caught only a glimpse of the issue filtered through a generous helping of spin, and as a result took or recommended political action that is detrimental to me personally. They're hurting me, and the situation they think they're addressing by doing so isn't even true. It's like if your dentist drilled a perfectly healthy tooth because he misread the x-ray.

I can't blame people for not reading every article in depth - I certainly don't read everything - but it's extra frustrating because when it's an issue that affects me I do read every article in depth and seek out alternate interpretations and primary sources, but the people who were less diligent still have the power to hurt me. (The obvious suggestion at this point is to educate people, but I don't know going in who, if anyone, is going to end up hurting me through ignorance.)

I wish journalistic ethics required constructing articles and television features so that you only get facts if you just glance at it, and you have to focus and pay more in-depth attention to get spin and opinions.

1 comment:

L-girl said...

I wish journalistic ethics required constructing articles and television features so that you only get facts if you just glance at it, and you have to focus and pay more in-depth attention to get spin and opinions.

Wouldn't that be great. That would be a different world. A non-profit world, I believe.