Saturday, September 05, 2020

The problem with narrative driven news.

 When I was a kid, there were newspapers, and TV news... they all covered the same stories, and told the same facts.

We are now in a far different world. As President Obama said in an interview with David Letterman:

People no longer agree on facts — and that's something foreign governments, like Russia, could exploit.

Even in that quote... you have facts, and a narrative he's trying to convey.

We still have the 3 TV Channels that mostly report the same news, which is nice.  However, most of us get our information online, where you can get wildly different facts and narratives.

Regardless of reasons, most online sources are forced to push a narrative, and treat actual journalism as a cost, both in terms of finance, and in terms of the possible upset (and loss) of viewers when facts get too close to straying from narrative.

We've all gotten comfortable with our sources, and grown to suspect that the "other side" is all made up bullshit.  In some cases it's mostly true (I'm looking at you, Fox "news"), but the reality is a bit trickier, and sucks a whole lot more as a result.

Narrative driven news requires "cherry picking" of facts and massaging them carefully to fit the narrative, while excluding all else.  It's only when stories that are big enough to be broadcast on the remaining 3 TV channels, that some accommodation has to be made, lest the hole in coverage make the narrative too obvious.

A clear case of this accommodation is when you see "Mostly Peaceful" or "Fiery" protests, while carefully avoiding terms like Riot, Arson, Looting, which would break the narrative, from the supposedly "Liberal Media".


Coping Skills for the Internet Age

People have always been pushing a narrative.  The age I grew up in was a bubble... a golden age, when market forces and government regulation compelled most of the news sources to tell an objective truth most of the time, because the airwaves were only on loan to broadcasters as part of a grand bargain.

Here we are with the internet, and we're back to the way it was before. Many sources pushing many narratives.

My narrative is to try to tell the truth, as I see it, as a service to help others. I'm biased, and try to point those biases out when I notice them. I'm also willing to loudly and publicly sound off when I've been wrong about something.

The first way to deal with this is to carefully curate your news sources.  Understand the biases they have, drop them when they are deranged, and seek out new ones all the time.  This is how I deal with it.

Your friends can be a good filter, if you treat them the same way. If you avoid triggering each other, you and someone who gets their news from the other side, can seek out details that might be of interest to each other, to help you both get a better understanding of reality.

It is especially important to be on the lookout for things you say, that your friends take time, effort, and emotional energy to clarify. You don't need to agree... but you would be well served to keep an eye out for details that fit with the other view... especially when you detect the accommodation of non-narrative truth that sometimes happens at your favorite sources.


Well, that's enough for now... comments and questions welcome.

Thank you for your time and attention.

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