More on willful ignorance and the media

© Vanessa Otero. Reprinted with permission.

A few days ago I wrote about willful ignorance and media bias and included a several-years-old chart from Pew Research. Shortly thereafter a reader directed me to this chart by Vanessa Otero, from her provocatively titled blog All Generalizations Are False. I thought it worth revisiting the topic just to add this chart that includes more news sources in a more helpful format. (Note there are two axes on this chart.) And don’t miss Otero’s accompanying post “News Quality.” She reminds us that for all their faults, mainstream media are mainstream for a reason (although I don’t regard them as highly as she does).

It occurs to me belatedly that when I was young and someone said something hurtful or of questionable value, my mom would remind me to just “Consider the source.”

My mom was pretty smart.

28 thoughts on “More on willful ignorance and the media

      1. Yes, there was a time when “consider the source” was a phrase you might hear every day. It was often applied to individuals rather than media conglomerates, but valid in either case. Even more so now that the “source,” as often as not, isn’t a network, a magazine, or even an established blog, but just the ranting of some single weirdo.

        1. Or lots of weirdos and gullible/ignorant people passing around rumors and nonsense on social media. Reminds me of playing Telephone when I was a kid. Made dangerous by the deliberate injection of fake news.

  1. Pretty good analysis, but I disagree with a few things. Re MSNBC and Fox…it depends on who you listen to. Chris Wallace and Meghan Kelly are pretty balanced on Fox, and Joe Scarborough has a good show on MSNBC. WAPO, the post is great. The Economist skews left a lot. The Atlantic produces good thoughtful copy, but those with a short attention span won’t like it.

    Every reputable news source tries to have a balance of opinion writers. Most TV news programs offer a mix of commentators from the left and right. These people give the listener reinforcement for her beliefs. For example, Patty Solis Doyle, Van Johnson and others skew left, while the ubiquitous Kelly Ann Conway skews right.

    Generalizations are are gross for sure.

    1. Meghan Kelly is doing herself a disservice by staying at Fox. She’s better than that. Kellyanne Conway is almost worse than watching Trump himself (I won’t watch either). I don’t think HuffPo is as good as indicated here, and I’d put them more to the left as well. I wish Business Insider had been included, but there’s a limit to what will fit on one chart. I’m not familiar with any of those in the lower left corner, but can’t read the “—– Report.” I might have heard of it. Overall, though, I pretty much agree with Otero.

  2. Hmmm… Interesting. That is pretty much how I had summed up these news sites. It’s just nice to know I’m seeing these sites for exactly what they are. And I never use any of the far left or far right sites as a reference. I’ll glance from time-to-time but I rarely waste my time on those types of sites.

  3. Indeed, somewhat. When a person tells someone they are smart, that means they think they are smart, smart enough to know the difference. Scholarship is an everyday activity. Smart people come in every shape, size, and imagination. What are sources? Everybody makes mistakes too, sometimes. I would prefer my university library, but the internet is handy. People who are well informed read from many sources, listen closely, and question constantly. Keep the Internet free and unfettered, to the degree we can.

    1. I treasure my laptop and the internet. Many times a day I’ll wonder about something and the answer is at my fingertips. As a child all I had was a multivolume encyclopedia which got more out of date every year (but at the time it was a treasure trove of knowledge). Much as I deride “fake news” and social media, I think any effort to regulate them is on a very slippery slope.

    1. My only real quibble is that I don’t put mainstream media on quite as high a pedestal as Ms. Otero (see her article). They may represent our highest journalistic standards, but I think those standards are not as high as they used to be.

  4. Interesting and pretty accurate ( as you and IamL above noted.
    Mom was right. That phrase was common and paid attention to.
    Now however, with the internet the whole “source” thing is even getting iffy with people paying to the oddest ones and some looking more authoritative than they really are… So much repeat, reblog, repost – it can get like that old game where a phrase is whipsered at one end but by the end, the words area all different. Few take time to run down to the beginning/prime source and few understand authoritative source…and that even those must be scrutiniezed for bias and proven facts stated in nonemotional/non inflammatory language.
    Like you, it’s been nice to search among various sources for one story. And any attempt to limit what is available is a very slippery slope.
    Now more than ever, education, facts, and understanding of media (and how stories can be tweaked to get a chosen message across) – these are more critical than ever.

    1. Much of journalism has become just churnalism. And the rest, when original, is now advocacy journalism instead of the objective reporting I was taught. The mainstream media muddied the waters even more when they started soliciting and giving air time to tweets from their audiences. Tweets from the general public are NOT news and do not deserve air time on news programs (but hey, they’re free and they fill time). I don’t know what the answer is short of returning to a real, quality education system that teaches critical thinking and doesn’t promote or graduate students until they’ve actually learned something. (Not holding my breath on that.)

      1. I cannot stand anchors reading audience tweets ( or seeing then stream across the screen at the bottom) or the “news” segments where they read/discuss trending posts/viral videos. Worse is a segment discussing/gossiping about last night’s events on that stations’popular tv shows. Gag.
        They must plan on boring us to death or walking away in disgust – either way, the media elites smirk and claim a win?

          1. Guess they don’t believe that those who turn them off during/after the election might just decide that was a better way to live?
            Easier and quicker to keep up online. (and they wonder why broadcast tv is becoming a dinosaur…)

          2. Yep, I’ve turned off national news. Nothing there I want to see right now. I check the headlines online; that’s about it.

            (Heh, and yet I’m posting about willful ignorance … )

          3. Ditto – and noted is that quality of checking news is preferable to quantity of (what is pasing for) “news”/gossip
            Stay warm snow gnomes/elves/bunnies/ whatever is acceptable to say these days HA HA (and what a year it has been – cheers for all those still not battered to the ground by it all.)

  5. My dtr sent me this chart causing me to wonder where she got it but she didn’t say. Glad to find the link to you at Schmidleys. By and large I agree with the designations, too — also, especially, with differentiating some individual news casters or are they commentators allowed to present their approach. TV news deteriorated around the end of the fifties/early ’60s with local markets when ratings showed they attracted more viewers if they ran “blood & guts” stories, so sent crews out to film car accidents to air. Once NBC was purchased by G.E. and news ceased to be viewed as a public service but became expected to make a profit there was further decline. Now it’s disgustingly filled with celebrity-stuffed “news” stories — opium of the masses as some have said. Here in Southern California we’re treated to car chases. I can’t shake the habit of surfing the stations occasionally just for comparative purposes.

    1. Unfortunately, as with so many other things, the profit motive has become the prime reason for what and how the media do things. There are a few organizations that still try to uphold standards while also making money and I appreciate their efforts; I just have to wonder how long they’ll last.

    1. I had to consult the Urban Dictionary for that one. Apparently it’s a crude and unnecessary descriptive expression: something is basic or good or amazing “as f*ck,” often abbreviated AF. F-bombs are not a part of my vocabulary or those around me, and I think it detracts from an otherwise professional presentation.

... and that's my two cents