Breaking News Is Broken (Slate.com)

Quoting my brother from whom I got the link on Facebook: «Ironically, this link is being spread by way of social media, but I hope it can serve as a mental filter for us all. Read the article, and remember it next time something big and scary happens out there.»

Don’t watch cable news. Shut off Twitter. You’d be better off cleaning your gutters.

Inspired by the events of the past week, here’s a handy guide for anyone looking to figure out what exactly is going on during a breaking news event. When you first hear about a big story in progress, run to your television. Make sure it’s securely turned off.

Next, pull out your phone, delete your Twitter app, shut off your email, and perhaps cancel your service plan. Unplug your PC.

[Click to read the entire article.]

I remember thinking something similar during the news-rush related to the July 22nd bombing and shootings in Oslo, Norway, in 2011. News reports were spewing out, online and on the air, and the alleged “facts” were neither conclusive nor coherent, not by a long shot. Worst was the instant assumption, held by both the media and the general populace, that we were under attack by Islamic terrorists, when there was nothing to support such an allegation, and the inevitable conclusion when the perpetrator was caught that this was indeed one of our own, a white, Christian man of Norwegian birth and upbringing.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could rely on news as being accurate (or at least as fairly accurate as humanly possible), instead of a rumour-based barrage of allegations and conclusions to which one has jumped based on less-than-sufficient information viewed with a less-than-sufficiently critical eye, in order to generate maximum air traffic or web traffic, and thereby maximum advertising revenue?

The first step, I think, is that we, the viewers, apply a critical attitude towards everything that we watch and read, well aware that the bigger and more sensational the headlines, the greater the likelihood that Someone™ was either in a hurry to beat the competition and forgot (or neglected) to check facts before publishing, or wanted to draw a bigger audience and therefore twisted and stretched the facts to suit their own agenda.

I know, I know, it’s not always easy to keep your head cool when things start to happen, but hey, we can try. And perhaps the best approach is, as long as we’re not directly involved, to turn our backs on the misinformation until the media have sobered up enough to publish something actually meaningful.

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