The News Media Sucks

I just can’t take the news anymore. It’s all partial truths and sensationalism. I believe that probably 95% of what we see on the news is misrepresented in some way. A simple example on the Fox News website today illustrates my point.

Today’s story has the following headline: “Rocket Fuel Chemical Found in Baby Formula”. WOW! That’s crazy right? Rocket fuel??? Immediately my mind starts racing… is it China poising our kids again? Terrorists sneaking something into the food supply? What are we going to do about this? Our kids lives are at stake!!!

Then the skeptic in me kicked in. Can’t be actual rocket fuel. Oh wait… rocket fuel “chemical”. There we go. Rocket fuel is made of tons of chemicals! So I read through the story to find which chemical we’re talking about. The chemical is Perchlorate. A quick search on Wikipedia turns up the following page: Turns out it’s a naturally occurring chemical used in all kinds of things, including candles, medicine… oh, and rocket fuel.

So is there something to be worried about? Probably. It certainly deserves to be reported and further study done. But the problem I have with the media is the blatant effort to push my buttons; to manipulate my feelings.

They could have used a headline like “Water supply possibly carrying too much naturally occuring chemical”. But who would read that? It’s too honest and not alarming enough. Babies eating rocket fuel is much better!

The problem is that the media is a business after all and that business relies on people paying attention so the advertisers stay happy. So we get bombarded with half truths and alarmist language to prompt us to respond.

This is a trivial example, but it makes you wonder how much the truly big stories are being twisted for emotional effect. How “fair and balanced” are the stories we’re seeing on the financial crisis, or the wars in the middle east, or the political events in Washington?

It all reminds me of the need to question everything, compare the news from many sources, dig for hard facts, read between the lines, and view everything in it’s proper context.