Rules for Reading the News

I put this up on Facebook, but for convenient linking and reposting I’ll duplicate it here, too.

Jacob’s Rules for Reading the News

Rule 1: The Media Lies.

They will selectively present, selectively edit, misrepresent, misquote, mis-paraphrase, or just flat out make things up to support their preferred narrative or to draw in readers. If there’s absolutely no way for them to do any of that, they will either bury the story in a corner below the fold on the want-ad pages (or the equivalent), or simply not report it at all.

Rule 2: The Media is Lazy.

Even if they’re being honest, as long as they can fill their required word count or time for the story, they don’t care if there are unanswered questions, or unaddressed viewpoints, or witnesses/experts who can flesh out the story to make it complete. They’re done.

Rule 3: The Media Doesn’t Know What It Doesn’t Know.

Whatever they actually teach in journalism school, it’s not physics, biology, medicine, math, statistics, history, etc. Reporters and editors will happily publish a story with claims that violate the laws of physics, contradict known historical/medical/scientific facts, or quote statistics that completely contradict what they claim. Because not only do they not know any better, they don’t even know they don’t know, and they don’t know that there are questions they should be asking to clarify or correct their errors.

Rule 4: Always Remember the Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect.

You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. You read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

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