Monday, September 15, 2008

Fwd. Accountability

So this morning I made a huge mistake. I turned on the news.

I rarely watch tv. Even more rare is the time I take to watch the news. And this morning I remembered why.

The first fifteen to thirty minutes are filled with despair laden stories that both break your heart and keep your finger from pressing the channel change button. I've already been teary this morning about Lehman Bros. (not their actual 11 filing but the filing out of all their employees), the cute old man on GMA who talked about his unpaid oil bill, the final number of deaths in Chatsworth, and the damage in Texas.

I hate the news. Not the actual happenings, both good and bad, but rather the machine. And this includes all of us. See, every time I turn on the tv to watch the news I'm telling them that I need them to bring me the messages of the world in the way they deliver them.

One of the other ways we fuel the news machine was discussed in two fascinating stories by NPR's On The Media this weekend. Called Stick Up and Pass it On the pieces focused, using the current election campaigns, on two of the most effective ways that news gets spread, often times with a heavy twist away from fact. Having seen and read more forwards than I've ever wanted to I am still never surprised when I open one. I have intelligent friends and family, and yet I receive emails that are sometimes just absurb, and other times dangerously factless and illogical.

Now I do not want to sound hypocritical. I've forwarded things. Usually heartwarming stories about what kindergartners say in their classrooms, but sometimes a political message. Every time I've sent something I've read it carefully, and added my own comment at the start. And I check my facts. But as the story Pass it On mentions, even with several options to check facts (i.e., Snopes) people still fail to do this and send on potentially damaging information (political or not). I am unsure why people pass on stories at all before checking facts. As far as they can. I mean, there are so many stories out there that I wouldn't want my name attached to, even in an email.

It's so easy for us to get mad at the news for their sometimes skewed stories - but why aren't we held more responsible for the news we've spread?

1 comment:

Diana said...

I hear you on this. The political news was really starting to stress me out the last couple of weeks -- I had to cut myself off on political articles and limit my online news time so that I could concentrate on my semester (both timewise and mental-health-wise). Sometimes it is just too wrong, and too much.