Thursday, July 17, 2014

Staff Stuff - 7/16/14 "Just the facts ma'am."

In the words of Joe Friday, "Just the Facts ma'am."

In today’s world, perception means a lot. What other people perceive about you, your ideas or your actions often packs more weight than the truth does. While I can’t say that this is fair or good, it is the reality in which we live.

We see this played out everyday in the national news media. So much of what we’re told is not truth, but a perceived truth. In the news business they call it ‘spin’. That’s when the reporter takes a look at the story and decides to show - or ‘spin’ - the story in a way that will either only show his or her point of view, or will get the highest ratings.
Spin is not generally telling an out and out lie, it’s telling only enough truth to get by with, while simply not mentioning the facts that don’t go along with whatever goal you’re trying to reach.
Some of the biggest topics to get some spin in the media lately have been EPA coal regulations and the Hobby Lobby court decision. How many stories have you seen about how coal is bad for the environment and the EPA is trying to crack down on power plants that pump out high levels of pollution? I bet you’ve seen more of those (on a national level) than you’ve seen stories where they discuss the lack of a viable option to coal power or the impact closing coal mines would have on the economies in coal mining states.
And with Hobby Lobby all I really need to say is ‘War on Women’. I’ve seen hundreds of headlines on Facebook where people are using that phrase and talking about how Hobby Lobby refuses to pay for birth control for their employees.
When the news article came from a reputable source, you can go into the meat of the story and read that Hobby Lobby only refused to pay for four out of twenty birth control options. But honestly, most people never get beyond the headline and the introductory paragraph. They throw ‘Hobby Lobby’ and ‘war on women’ into the headline and suddenly it is all over Facebook that the craft  store chain has declared war on all women everywhere.
You see, it’s all about perception. Today people want their news short and quick. They don’t want details, they want a summery and a heading that let’s them know just enough to get by. The problem is, the truth is in the details, the summery and the heading only give you what the news source wants to give you.
But perception isn’t just influenced by the national news. That actually might only be a small part these days. I think one of the biggest influences of perception today is Facebook. I’ve often said, and truly believe, that once it’s on Facebook, half the people who read it will automatically assume it’s real.
Two week’s ago the farcical news source “Empire News” posted a story online about the Kentucky State Police finding 17 bodies in an underwater grave in Henderson. The accompanying photo was a news photograph from where authorities located a human leg only a week before. The story hit Facebook and within thirty minutes three of my friends had shared it. I had out of state relatives who saw it on their Facebook and called family members to see what was going on.
Some how we’ve developed this perception that everything on Facebook is true, especially if it looks like it’s true or if the person writing sounds like they did their research.
Sometimes it’s as small a thing as someone posting a rumor that they heard. If they post it and they sound credible, all of a sudden their rumor has become a fact. It doesn’t matter if they did their own research or if they are only reporting what they were told. It doesn’t matter if they know the whole truth or just one side of it.
Facebook is a dangerous thing. It’s very easy for people to get to talking on there and nearly destroy someone else’s life when they don’t even know what they are talking about. One post could be enough to alter the perception of the readers.

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