Rx for News Organizations and Opinion Makers!

AGREE or DISAGREE?

Fox, CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, NBC, NPR and other “news” channel outlets who claim that “news matters” should:

[1] Do a much better job of identifying and reporting the RELEVANT FACTS in the stories you report. As it stands now, there is almost nowhere to go if I want to get the facts of a story. For example, what the President said vs. what the media says he meant. You skipped a step!

[2] Add this missing step, the TRIGGERING EVENT, comment or action in raw form that the story is commenting on or the report is about. Don’t start with your reporter’s opinion of what the story means. Allow the reader, viewer, listener to decide what it might mean or at least separate the reporter’s opinions from the facts. Start with the facts. If you only strive to do these ([1] and [2]) things, the world would be a more rational and less hostile place.

[3] Require your NEWS PEOPLE to feature facts not opinions and clearly identify personal opinions or interpretations in every news piece. Editors should support reporters in this effort with coaching, approval and favored status and perhaps a bonus or two. In short, align their incentives toward this goal of facts and clarity and away from opinion and judgment.

[4] PEJORATIVE GLOBAL TERMS should be defined within the story so we, the listeners/viewers/readers can judge for ourselves if the facts support the label being applied (e.g. racist, sexist, homophobic, traitor, white nationalist, alt-right, alt-left, Nazi, Communist …) This should always be an independent definition and not a circular argument like “X said this and that means they are a racist.”

[5] NEWS ORGANIZATIONS – it is not about you, your thoughts, your feelings or your anything. So, STOP making the news yourself (e.g. by sponsoring your own surveys and the formation of panels of IDENTICALLY-MINDED opinion leaders who present their consensus as unopposed truth which you report as if it is news.)

[6] SOCIAL MEDIA – The USA government should define what social media companies are under the law (publishers? broadcasters? both? other?) and therefore how they must operate their businesses under existing laws and regulations. Perhaps the social media companies themselves could develop standards of practice and at least some code of ethics regarding deceptive use of information, slander, false reporting, and censorship of viewpoints. That would be worth a try. They can start by defining EVIL and how they will work to avoid creating it.

[7] Government supported UNIVERSITIES and COLLEGES who fail to support open discussions of differing points of view should suffer funding cuts with funds going to institutions that do demonstrate that debate and reasoned discussion are their own institutional values. Here too, standards for allowing differing points of view on campus and in classrooms could be developed by inter-institutional panels representing the public, students and the academic institutions themselves. I suggest self-defining the purpose of each institution and why it deserves taxpayer funding followed by a student bill of rights and responsibilities to start.

[8] NOBEL PRIZE IN JOURNALISM or some such thing? Perhaps the creation of a Gates PRIZE FOR JOURNALISM (no not the ICFJ for shaping the world, no points for shaping the world in your image!) or some other endowment source (crowd funding?), might be used to recognize and reward reporters and news organizations for their exceptional pursuit of truth and outstanding service to “NEWS”. I repeat, the award would NOT be given to those who seek to SHAPE public policy or the world but to those who supply raw materials (facts) to those who need them for thinking and judging what actions to take (the news consuming public and voters). Award winners would observe the highest reporting standards across a broad range of their reporting realm and would be notable for their ability to organize facts, research trends and context perspectives benefiting the education of all. A transparent representative committee of different ideologies and world views should be maintained to award this prize. This would be an annual prize that might skip years as determined by the availability of qualified candidates.

[9] Context and trend information should cease being manipulated to fit the news reporter’s bias. The great reporter would be adept at sniffing out “Gerrymandered” trends with self-seving beginning and ending dates.

[10] OPPORTUNITY! Report relevant facts and grow rich? The “news” situation at present offers an excellent business opportunity for someone! Any group of investors who might seek to do a good job instead of the mashup job we have now, and who can tell a fact from a canard (an unfounded rumor or story) please step forward! The time is right. Go for it!

Remember this is an opinion piece.