TED Conversations

Sky F
  • Sky F
  • Salt Lake City, UT
  • United States

Westminster College

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Objective Unbiased Evaluation of Media Providers for a Stronger Democracy

*I acknowledge this idea is not plausible, so I don't think plausibility comments are worth posting. I only hope to discuss the VALUE of this idea*

Ya know, last presidential election I was taking a media class. It just showed me that people are being shepherded by their sources of news and information to believe something. It seems the presidential elections were more about insignificant issues blown way out of proportion and public representation contests rather than what should be truly important: the truth.

I talked to my professor about this, how I thought that a functional democracy couldn't operate with such biased media-reporting and ads that spout cool buzz words like "patriot" and "change" and "american" and "family values" and a whole bunch of things that don't really mean anything because no one *actually* disagrees with them.

Point is, I believe how politics are presented to the public play a big role on how our government is shaped.

My professor then corrected me and said that "It's kind of the lesser of two evils, but a democracy would be even worse off without having any media." I agreed.

The idea I'm proposing is that there should be an organization that essentially 'grades' news programs on how much people should listen to them. Some news reports seem to be seething with fallacious arguments, whether it be Fox News or the Daily Show. Things should be graded on whether their arguments are actually saying anything or if they're just spouting the same old buzz words, that have lost meaning except for the most easily persuaded. Reporting should be completely neutral and the language used should reflect this. Too many opinions only appear to be constructed from valid arguments but however are actually riddled with fallacious logic. What actually gets portrayed in the media is also only half the story.

This would solve what BOTH sides think is faulty with our current political system. Detrimental to untrustworthy politicians, though.

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    Apr 26 2011: Have a look at FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting) at http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=100. This isn't quite what you're suggesting, but it seems like the kind of neutral party that could provide a framework for more specific evaluations of reporting.

    One issue with the idea is attracting attention. The news media cause and, in turn, take advantage of our general inertia. Many people don't want to think deeply about issues, let alone spin; they want the media to deliver sound bites and superficial analysis. And there are those who can't distinguish political satire from factual reporting. People are drawn to media sources whose bias, if any, fits their ideology, and they become inured to it. This last point affects even highly-involved and well-informed people.

    So assuming the organization you're suggesting were established, how do we get people to pay attention?
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      Sky F

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      Apr 26 2011: Thank you. I have done no research or anything. This 'idea' was really the straightoutofmyhead type. This is awesome.

      Pay attention? I don't know. The way I imagined it was kind of like MPAA rating for movies. Somehow attached to everything we watched? That would hardly be possible. Good question really, I have no answer.
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    Apr 26 2011: i think removing politics completely off news networks would be a start.
  • Apr 26 2011: Sky: How would the evaluators be any less biased than the organizations they are evaluating? My experience is that the only people who are politically neutral tend to be politically ignorant and uninvolved -- how much credibility would you put on their opinions, always assuming you could find such people prepared to give opinions?

    I think many news organization genuinely try to be neutral in their reporting, but it is just human nature that everything tends to get slanted according to personal biases.
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      Sky F

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      Apr 26 2011: No opinions. Only criteria that is defined by objective rules of logic/etc.

      For example, such an organization could scan simply for number of fallacies committed. Peer review of these ratings. Etc.

      Basically: We shouldn't be persuaded by the best salespeople, but rather the best argument. That's all this idea would protect us from.
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    Apr 25 2011: Hi Sky! I think you have the beginning of a great idea here. Hospitals are now being rated by people who use their services. An organization was formed and each patient evaluates the service of the hospital on several dimensions from hygiene to food service. The data is aggregated by the organization and the feedback is used to rate hospitals. They have become very influential because the evaluation is by an independent 3rd party and it is comparitive.
    Something similar could be started for the news media. I am not quite sure how to start it but it could be done on the internet with those who used the service answering questions on several dimensions from bias to clarity.
    I love the abilty of young minds to generate ideas!!! Thanks for sharing this one.
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      Sky F

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      Apr 25 2011: Oh shucks thanks for actually reading it!

      I just imagine it would clean up a lot of beliefs people hold...