The Media: What should we believe?

2013-03-15 11.41.52Our thoughts and opinions are shaped by our experience and exposure – what we read, watch or listen to, consciously or subconsciously. The mass media plays a great role in influencing us, but we can manage this influence.

Sensationalism is often used to attract a large readership or the most viewers. It can be very appealing for its entertaining allure but normally lacks depth. One needs to question its authenticity.

Truth in journalism – how can we be sure that what we read or watch is the truth? Who has deemed this particular news item important to report? Whose perspective is it in? Is it biased? Have they given us the big picture or have they blown up a small part of a big picture?

A recent report by CNN has been accused of sensational and negative reporting of Kenya’s recent election. The report covers a group of four Kenyans who had armed themselves with homemade weapons. They are filmed acting out how they would defend themselves in the event of  violent reprisals as was experienced during the last elections of January 2008.

Having followed the build up to the elections, as well as communicating with people living in Kenya, I was aware of the alternative perception of Kenyans striving for peace. Peace messages were enforced all over the Kenyan media and around the country the people were working hard to uphold this notion. Kenyans do not want a repeat of the violence from the last election. The CNN clip did not appear to cover that but instead focused on the message that communities across Kenya were taking up arms. Watch the clip and make your own ‘judgement’ ‘Armed as Kenyan Vote Nears’. Do you think this is unbalanced reporting? Does it show us the bigger picture?

In the following video we can see the backlash that this report caused:  Kenya protest CNN’s militia video.

As viewers, how can we determine that news reports give us the true picture?

Those familiar with the situation being reported would know, in this case they knew, in fact there was an uproar. Kenyans made their thoughts known on the social media sites using the hashtag #SomeoneTellCNN. They accused the CNN of unbalanced reporting.

However, some can argue that the reporter was telling the truth but from her observations of the group of four, their perspective.

So what should we believe?

If we are familiar with the subject being reported then we are in a better position to make the judgement. Unfamiliarity of a subject opens a door in us that allows reports like this to find a place in our thoughts thereby forming our opinions.  Unless we ask questions.

We live in an information age, thanks to technology we have a far greater outreach, we can experience places, cultures, communicate with people from across the world, all this from the comfort of our homes. Access to the rest of the world is better than it has ever been. Even my 8 year old would say to me “can we google it?” Social media is a powerful tool, use it wisely.

So what is deemed as the truth?  The truth in whose eyes?

Subject to what we are being informed about, in my opinion – one perspective does not give the big picture but many perspectives may give a clearer picture but not necessarily the whole truth. How many points of view do you need to give a clearer picture?  This is the challenge to balanced reporting.

I say, google it! Inform yourself, look at it from different sources. We can make better judgements when we are better informed. Ask questions and find answers before you believe.

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