E011 - You’re Doing it Wrong! How to Watch the News

This week on Across The Peak Rich and I try to break you out of the "filter bubble" and tell you how to watch the news (we use the term loosely) more thoughtfully.

Intro Stuff

  • Planning slow day "snow days" for yourself

  • Rich's Drink: W.L. Weller's Special Reserve Bourbon

  • Justin's Drink: Baba Black Lager from Uinta Brewing

Uinta BABA.png

Why You need to Watch the News Better

  • Consuming too much news doesn't make you any happier.

  • Ironically, it doesn't really make you better informed.

  • Since we gravitate to things that validate our own opinions, views, and beliefs, watching too much news just reinforces preconceived notions rather than truly informing or enlightening.

A Discussion of News Generally

  • Look upon each new piece of data with a jaundiced eye.

  • Recognizing "Yellow Journalism" or what we would now term "fake news." Joseph Campbell first identified the term, Frank Mott defined five criteria defining yellow journalism:

    • Scare headlines,

    • Lavish use of pictures, images,

    • Fake interviews, misleading headlines, pseudoscience, and/or a parade of false learning from dubious experts,

    • Emphasis on full color supplements (i.e. Sunday comics),

    • Dramatic sympathy with the underdog fighting against the system.

  • We are all susceptible to cognitive biases

Sidetrack: There are only seven stories: overcoming the monster, rags-to-riches, the quest, voyage and return, comedy, tragedy, rebirth. For more information see The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories by Christopher Booker

Why You Shouldn't Trust the News

  • News outlets are profit-motivated companies. There goal is not to serve unbiased, honest news. It is make money, which is made by appealing to a specific audience who supports them through advertisements.

  • The twenty-four hour news cycle requires generation of 24x7 engaging content. This content doesn't have to be factually accurate, but it does have to have to appeal to their target audience to satisfy their primary goal of earning advertising dollars. This leads to:

    • Speculation

    • Endless repetition of the same thing

Sidetrack: Wag The Dog (film)

  • The hunt for ratings and clicks forces networks to appeal more deeply to more and more specific demographics. As a result networks tailor their content to that audience, not to the unbiased truth.

  • Realize that the media is not the "liberal media." Many new outlets (even the liberal ones) are owned by wealthy conservatives.

Sidetrack: People are bad at spotting fake news. Can computer programs do better? We strongly encourage you to read the article in the link.

How to Watch the News Better

Technique #1: Consume less news. This is probably the single best technique. Cut back to:

  • 30 minutes per day of local news, and

  • 30 minutes per day of national/world news.

That's it. That's all the news you really need. You aren't going to learn MORE from watching more news, you're just going to hear the same things repeated over and over and over.

Technique #2: Watch a little bit of ALL the news outlets and triangulate the story for yourself. This is for you if you're a news junkie and have the time

  • 30 minutes to 1 hour of Fox News,

  • 30 minutes to 1 hour of MSNBC, and/or

  • 30 minutes to 1 hour of CNN

This will likely be a painful process if you have a strong allegiance to one of these networks. BUT, this will give you a much more well-rounded view of what's going on. It will also demonstrate to you how all news outlets (including YOURS) are framing the story to favor a certain viewpoint.

Bonus points: watch foreign news like BBC and CBC.

Book of the Week

How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading by Mortimer J. Adler

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Justin Carroll