Excerpt from the new Amazon almost best-seller
Media Collusion: Journalism and Marketing Experts Share the Secrets of Sneaky Advertising, Targeted Persuasion, AI and Tracking, Political Deception and Coercion, and Dishonest News
If you want to figure out who’s an expert and who knows what they’re talking about, the web is your friend. A Wikipedia search on any relevant writer, reporter or broadcast news journalist will turn up all kinds of relevant information about their education, work background, biases, books written, content produced and so forth.
You should make it a practice to vet journalists and broadcasters in order to figure out if how much influence you let them have over your opinions. This is particularly useful when examining the backgrounds of news analysts and bloggers. TV news organizations draw heavily on government bureaucrats and former intelligence agency workers (hint: spies) to put analytical filters onto the events of the day. If you’re watching the news with a laptop or tablet nearby, you can quickly learn a lot more about these people, the organizations they’re affiliated with, and their past positions. With just a little reading, you can get to know who they really are and why they may have come into favor with the particular news production. The people who appear on Fox, for example, are often very different than those that appear on CNN. The two channels are politically polarized. There are some that regularly appear on both channels. It’s worth looking into all of them if you want to have a really objective view into why they say what they do.
If you want to vet specific stories, again the internet is your friend. You’ll come across all manner of conflicting debate in alternate stories, comment threads and various other screeds. Some will be useful, but some will be complete and total nonsense. This is where the difficult part of vetting stories comes in. You have to rely on your own common sense views of the world and how it works to make decisions about what’s accurate and what’s not.
One of the more common story vetting tactics employed by professional journalists is called “follow the money.” When you consider issues within a context that places strong significance on the observation that humans invariably are motivated and take action in line with economic incentives, you can uncover some very valuable insights. This isn’t always the case, of course. People are motivated by altruism, justice, racism, gender bias, worldview bias, hunger, fear, irrationality and much more, but as time goes on and people get older, money can become a very accurate predictor of behavior. We’ll talk more about “follow the money” in Part 6.
EXTRA CREDIT: Check out famous news anchor Brian Williams explaining what the job of the news media is. Major slip-up.