Is The News Really Accurate News
by Larry Turner

Often, when I am viewing the “News” on TV or my iPhone, I hear those around me bemoaning the fact that the same stories have appeared verbatim for days on the same station. Is the area in which we live so devoid of interesting activity and events that the networks and local stations are forced to repeat stories to fill the space allotted to that category of programming?

The answer is probably more complicated than we can imagine, but a few things are quite clear. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, “news” is “a report of recent events.” Notice that the definition refers to a “report,” not someone’s interpretation of what happened but simply a report of the facts. And the dictionary states that the information reported should be “previously unknown,” not a rehash of prior coverage. That is why it is called NEWs; it is supposed to be NEW.

So, what happens between the happening of an event and its reporting? The important element to understand is not just who decides what to cover and what to ignore; it is more important to identify who decides on how to position the covered news. In past articles we have alluded to TPM’s, or Talking Points Memos issued by various government offices suggesting how to put a favored “spin” on the facts to make someone or some group look good, or at least not appear so hopeless. They probably play a larger role than we would like to imagine.

A couple of examples might help clarify these situations. If a government official wants to promote the general feeling that the economy is doing great, they would stress that the GDP rose a hardy 1.6% during the last reporting period, ignoring the fact that inflation grew at the greater rate of 3.2%, over-shadowing the GDP achievement. But few readers might be aware of that comparison if it is not pointed out.

Another example we in South Florida are familiar with historically is the overpowering focus on a tree that fell on a house during a storm as being reflective of the state of events in all affected areas. One downed tree does not constitute a disaster.

Finally, quite often we watch the morning and evening news shows without a word being uttered about the wars in the Ukraine, Iran, Israel-Gaza and to a lesser extent elsewhere, including uprisings in smaller venues like Haiti. When this happens, it is not fair to blame the general public for assuming that the world is free of turmoil. If only that were true.

There are certainly some events that by their nature are complicated and difficult to report accurately without reams of explanatory footnotes that would bore most viewers. That is certainly true of reporting on polls, especially during an election year. Viewers have no way of analyzing the reports they are receiving without knowing how many people were polled, where they were located, whether they had political leanings, what type of questions they were asked and, of course, when the poll was conducted. Without this background information there is no way to fully assess poll results.

Until the news industry changes significantly, we must read or receive it with raised eyebrows until we are able to analyze it against other reports, even those from what some might regard as maverick journalists. Because the reality is that “The News” might not really be NEWs after all.