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Where to get Objective News?

October 4, 2011

Information - Academy Awards - Star Wars in Os...

Reading Eagle front page. Image by mMathab via Flickr

I am a retired military intelligence officer.  One of my last jobs before retiring as an intelligence officer was to brief the Commanding General of the US Army Intelligence and Security Command, his staff and all his global subordinate commanders, at the beginning of their day about events around the world.  I read all the intelligence reports and often found the details… lacking and biased. I looked up news coverage of the same stories online, at CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, New York Times, Washington Post, LA Times, International Herald-Tribune, and news sources that were local for the area of the story.  My staff and I also looked at the news stories on television, as they often included details or nuances not included in the written stories.  As a last resort I sometimes called up the embassy or a military unit who would know more about the story. I found that original author of the intelligence report only occasionally had a perspective that included the big picture, usually the reports were limited to the area immediately impacted by the incident. As a result I found my briefings were usually much closer to the truth, more objective and unbiased, and my credibility was enhanced.  If I received a question about a nuance or even a rumor related to the event, I could usually answer with a direct and complete answer.

I developed a sensing about intelligence reporting and about a wide variety of media reporting, experience became a proud teacher.

The funny thing was I found my hometown newspaper, the Reading Eagle, to be an outstanding source for what I consider fair and objective reporting. Their print edition was and remains simply outstanding. …and yes, I was a paperboy for the Reading Eagle as a teenager. ..and no, they are not bribing me to write this. I honestly respect them as a news source!

A small side note. I have worked with quite a few news reporters in the past few years and found some to be highly professional, thorough and honest. I have worked with some reporters from news sources widely regarded as highly biased but found their reports to be what I considered well beyond reproach.  I recently shared one incredibly sensitive report with a Washington Post reporter, who wisely spiked the story when we couldn’t find a corroborating source. I have worked with other reporters with limited experience, with an overly aggressive rush to publish and even one with an incredible ability to distort the truth.  Who’da thunk?

My field is Information Operations and that is truly a vast field, recently expanded because of a definitional change by the US Secretary of Defense. Because of this I try to stay in touch with all the developments in any field where information is used to inform people, to change their attitude or perception, to make propaganda, to persuade large numbers of people, to communicate, or to create a narrative. The people who do this include governments, the military, corporations and small business, large populations and, yes, individuals. I have had discussions with experts about communication theories, about many different and related fields, I’ll save them for later discussions.

Today I keep TweetDeck running in the background on my computer, almost all the time. This allows a vast network of people to share new, developing and important information with their ‘followers’ on Twitter.

I subscribe to a number of different blogs and I receive notification of updates from a few newspapers and other sources of information. I use news aggregators and international news services.  NewsNow.UK is a really great way to gain a quick global perspective on most issues.

Two years ago a friend and I toured a center that researched the bias of media; their stated mission was to promote “fair and objective” reporting. My takeaway, however, was much different, their bias supported extremists in the media.  Other centers for media research were equally biased.

If I look to academia there is yet another bias. Altruism is the stated goal in the educational system, but there is still a bias that is pervasive.  This bias is reflective of the so-called “Mainstream Media“, sometimes abbreviated MSM.

Propaganda. The word is frequently used to describe any news emerging from one’s opponent. Volumes have been written about propaganda, just yesterday one of my most respected academicians used the word to describe information emerging from a corporation (that happened to be in the middle of a large scandal).

Sensationalism.  Yes, I use it.  Like others, I want to attract people to read this blog.  I use the title of this blog to lure you, gentle reader, into my lair. Then I attempt to use logic, reason and evidence (along with my informed opinion) to get you to think about a subject.  Question everything. I once had a boss who accurately predicted that as a result of the introduction of email, the title of the email might be the most important part of the report.

But sensationalism is used by many to bias a reader before reading the article. I can write an entirely objective piece about the President and if you read the title, and you always do, my fair and objective reporting now feeds or affects your bias.

So…  about the question, where does one find fair and objective reporting?  Currently there does not appear to be any one source for fair and objective reporting, and, quite honestly, there shouldn’t be. I have my own opinions, and so should you. I want to understand the truth.  It is important, however, to understand ALL sides of an issue.  Somebody pointed out last week that there are more than two sides to most issues and that is very important. In the United States we tend to divide issues into two camps, pro or con, for or against, blue or red. This has caused many of us to only make issues into clear, concise and often inaccurate packages.  I consider it a matter of pride that I can quickly give two sides of an issue and then describe the various shades of grey between the black and white.

My answer to you is to advise you read from a wide variety of news sources, form your own opinions and understand the issues. Keep an open mind to new possibilities and perspectives. If you only have on one cable or broadcast channel, your perspective will be limited to only that one source. You will become highly biased and, in my opinion, less than credible. Question everything.

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