Is The News True?
That sounds like a ridiculous question, but it’s not.
As Elliot Kaufman, the letters editor for The Wall Street Journal, points out in an WSJ op-ed on October 19, the hospital explosion in Gaza was attributed to the Israelis by the major media outlets very quickly, and erroneously. Furthermore, could the people at the hospital really have counted 500 bodies in a matter of minutes? I wonder how many people were really injured. I wonder how many outlets got this wrong. I wonder if any of them apologized.
The question I have been discussing with some of my readers by email is how do you know when news is true and how do you go about searching for the truth among all of the misinformation and disinformation out there?
I have taken two courses toward trying to get to the truth.
First, I read three different newspapers (NY Times, WSJ, Houston Chronicle) and listen to multiple news outlets (NPR, MSNBC, CNN, Fox, CBS, and NBC). The problem with my plan is that it takes place in a bit of an echo chamber as so many of the electronic media outlets and even print journalism have common sources. I may be getting different spins on the same facts, if they are even facts. As Kelly Ann Conway taught us, there are “alternative facts.” I am certainly getting different spins. The New York Times and MSNBC are likely to be to the left and The Wall Street Journal and Fox to the right, but knowing that you can try to filter what you read through the knowledge of the editorial prism used by each outlet.
Second, I don’t Tweet or X or whatever it’s called now. I do not use Facebook, Instagram, or any other social media. It’s hard enough to figure out where the big boys get their information. I am quite certain that the social media crowd makes half of it up. I just can’t tell which half.
One of my readers insists that I would be a lot smarter if I used X (Formerly Twitter). I cannot imagine how. X is a free-for-all with no filter at all.
Finally, in a story as important as the Israel-Hamas conflict that is as cloudy as the fog of war, every effort ought to be made to focus on the facts and not tug on the emotion for entertainment value. Yet, Lester Holt on NBC is constantly personalizing every story for ratings points. Does an example of a grieving family really gain any insight into the facts on the ground? I think not. This is when news drifts over to entertainment, and a soap opera at that.
It appears that what really happened in Gaza is that one of a battery of ten missiles launched from the area by Islamic Jihad fell on the parking lot of the hospital. That did the damage and surveillance from drones and spy aircraft indicate that the crater did not have the characteristics of an Israeli strike. The New York Times finally admitted its error in the print edition on October 24. But, no apology.
Ever since everyone got a smart phone, we have been subjected to putatively “objective” video. But, that too must be questioned as the videographer has the ultimate editorial power in his or her hands to start or stop shooting at will. Police body cams have the same issue.
As the Gaza hospital explosion story demonstrated, it is really hard to know what really happened. I keep trying. And, I keep writing about what I think the truth is. And, many of you take great pains to correct me when I get it wrong. Keep doing that.
That’s the only way we may get to the truth.