Corvida Raven

Community Catalyst, TED Conferences


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Why don't "the people" tell the news? Why do we make media companies responsible for reporting our news?

After an amazing Live Conversation with Julia Bacha today on encouraging the media to cover nonviolence leaders, I couldn't help wondering why don't people make the news?

Why do we let media companies tell us what the news is, as if we have no idea what's going on in our own backyards? We ARE the news. We make the news what is it, and yet it's not even decided by us. Why is this?

Why do we feel it's the responsibility of media companies to report on us instead of the other way around?

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    Sep 20 2011: News = entertainment. It's no higher up the cultural ladder than soap operas.

    The standard of news journalism in NZ is laughable. It's pathetic and I am constantly dumbfounded as to why so many people hold "the news" in such high regard.

    There's far more of value available through Dora the Explorer than network news.
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      Sep 20 2011: Awesome comment Scott. What's considered "news" has certainly changed rapidly in the last decade. Is that media companies fault or the fault of the people?
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        Sep 20 2011: Initial ideas: A quick Google search says that news is "newly received or noteworthy information, esp. about recent or important events." The problem with the news is that "noteworthy" is a loose term that can be interpreted as the ability for news medias to simply "entertain" subscribers without providing wholesome information. However, the interpretation of news is also left up to the consuming public, and the fact that the public can decide to listen to one news source or another shows their approval for noteworthy information, which sadly, I think is based off of what gains attention, thus creating profit. Perhaps it is a vicious cycle? Thoughts?
      • Sep 21 2011: i think it's clearly the fault of a lack of standards regulation. if news broadcasters aren't forced to maintain a high quality, why would they spend the money on qualified professionals, proof-readers and fact checking when opinion and assumption are so much easier and cheaper to come by? they are businesses out to make a buck, not a nobel prize.

        also i don't think there's really anything underhanded about how one-sided news usually is. it's not about keeping people in the dark about the other side, it's about ensuring advertisers keep buying time. i've heard it said recently that ron paul has been unfairly sidelined by the media, but that's a perect example - he hasn't been sidelined because they don't like his views, others have been given moe attention because they pay for ads.
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          Sep 21 2011: Well said ^^

          News media organisations certainly like to present themselves as full of "integrity" and "up to the minute relevance" though.

          I also think that, in general, the News media has seriously underestimated peoples' media-savviness. I think it's safe to say that the TV Generation is now 2 generations deep and people are developing (informally, as schools have largely ignored TV) the ability to identify spin (bullshit).

          Advertisers probably also undervalue the general public's media consumption habits. Maybe they don't.
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          Sep 21 2011: Scott, advertisers are getting the message big time and they are worried. That is why they are so keen to get into social media. Levis for example does a lot around social media and they believe that the money is in personal recommendations by socially adept or popular figures. They know that they are no longer getting much bang for their buck in tv and radio. the message is too broad, not targeting the right potential buyers. The advertising push is on to gain ground in all sorts of social media.
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          Sep 23 2011: I don't think it matters what techniques advertisers employ - if the product is good, then it'll sell (word of mouth) and if it isn't, no amount of spin or 'cool by association' will work.

          The great thing about social media is that the producers and advertisers won't have one-way control of the message anymore, so if people think it's crap, they will say so - which is a very good thing.

          Hopefully we'll see a similar thing happen in politics too..
      • Sep 21 2011: It's both. I have been and am on many sides of the equation, having edited and helped launch news sites, being that I am also a tv commentator and write for some major publications, being someone with quite a healthy social media following and of course as a consumer. On the editorial side, what those I have worked with and for have been most concerned about is 'eyeballs'. Quality content has not been raised at all. Quality to me being that which informs and enlightens and actually provokes a reader to think. I have left places because of the trash that we were posting as 'news '. And these are major sites.

        I am often shocked by a) how easy it is to become a commentator ad b) how willing the public is to absorb any information they are given with little to no reflection. I suppose people assume that because it is on tv or in writing it must be true. The more time I spend in the media world the less I trust anything I read, hear or see.

        News and media now is mostly all business and titillation. The industry requires a radical rethink of itself and its responsibility to serve readers who trust and rely on it for shaping how they see the world.
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      Sep 20 2011: So many things ceaselessly bombard a person since birth, externally and internally, particularly today, with so much misuse of public media tools and accessibility, that it is challenging to stay connected to the truth.

      Great question Corvida.

      Well put Scott.

      I have worked hard to insulate myself against the media ever since I became aware of it in childhood. News starts in second grade with gossip initiated by a perception-ally challenged person. It is perpetuated by narrow people. Then it is subscribed to and consumed by the lazy who don't wish to allocate any effort into finding the truth for themselves.
  • Sep 27 2011: When several years ago I told a Wall Street Journal columnist my desire to create a nonprofit that would support the telling of news stories in the human interest, from countries where aspiring journalists lack the training, technology, and platform to convey their reality, his answer was a flat, "it'll never work -- there's no money in it."

    From his perspective, news cannot exist without advertising, and advertisers favor a subject matter that lends toward the sensational and spectacular. Ads are tested to sell their products best when viewers are in a state of uncertainty and fear. News has been shifting more toward the spectacle, and away from the in-depth investigative reporting and nitty-gritty details of the human experience, for many decades. When I suggested to him that editors shouldn't arbitrate what is newsworthy, he sighed forlornly.

    Stories of war and disaster reliably make the front pages, as mainstream outlets gain access through special relationships with government, until new wars and disasters take their place. "Fatigue" is cited as a reason to draw down coverage, from the humanitarian crisis and civil war in Darfur, to the clean-up and rebuilding of New Orleans, to the wars of attrition in Iraq and Afghanistan. But these stories go on.

    I still stubbornly believe the audience is out there for the nitty-gritty details of people's suffering and struggle to create a better world, and advertisers don't have a place there anyway. Viewers can become more active in supporting investigations that matter to them, and news that's local to them, using online tools and making personal connections.

    Independent journalists can collaborate and put their work out there instead of competing for dwindling positions with established companies that serve their advertisers and do a disservice to the truth. If it's factual, well-researched, and biased toward the human interest instead of corporate interests, then they shouldn't have to starve to continue their work.
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      Sep 27 2011: Yes, I am here in the audience. In fact, I have shut off TV a long time ago... My awareness of the news does not come form mainstream media, although I check that periodically to stay in touch with the reality the media is designing.
      I believe in the power of one. Plus one, plus one is even better :-) So, let's start that non profit!
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    Sep 20 2011: If I may say, I think one issue is that many people are not aware of the systematic manipulation they are exposing themselves to by watching and absorbing the material from popular media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, ABC, etc.

    Noam Chomsky in his book (if I remember correctly) called "Imperial Ambitions" gives us a detail account of this manipulation process known as the propaganda model (Its a lot more detailed than what Wikipedia has to offer, not to say that Wikipedia is not a great source for information)

    there are essentially three stages to the propaganda model. The first stage is the news anchor presents a particular but rather controversial issue (stem cell research, abortion, police brutality, etc) and then gives a brief statement about the issue.

    During the second stage they present both sides of issue (this includes their original story/opinion of the issue) as well as what other people have to say about it (this is usually in the form of the news getting stories from random people or asking someone of high prestige to give their analysis of the issue)

    The third and final stage to this is they bring two people one, with high prestige (usually governmental officials, college professors from prestigious schools, C.E.O's or pretty much anyone from the intelligentsia). They are brought on for their "expert opinions about the topic to get you to agree on a certain point". this last stage is very important since many people would rather listen to these "experts" as opposed to Joe and Melissa, who may have relevant and factual information that serves a suitable purpose but instead gets labeled as conspiracy theorist. These experts are brought on to convince they masses that the information they will receive is correct and to be honest with you this is where the real trouble is.

    It really should come down to the individual being critical of all the information they receive and do research. only then can "the people" tell the news.
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    Sep 23 2011: There's major reasons we have big media companies. If it wasn't structured that way, there would be a lot of rumors. Like celebrity gossip. Journalism is something that comes from with in. The love of learning new things and gathering up information to tell a story. The media is made up of regular people like yourself. You cant just wake up and decide you want to report on what's going on in Texas. There's ambition that you have to have, just like you need to be successful with any other job. No, the news wont be accurate at all times, but it will for the most part depending on where you're getting your information from. Be a reporter then join the club. Report about whats going on in your neighborhood. Make a blog, get some credit behind your name, and the readers will follow. News comes from all over the world. Would you not be a part of "the people" then? If not explain.
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      Sep 26 2011: Great point

      But I think you should really watch the documentary "Outfoxed" jor read Edwards Berneys "Propaganda" (He was one the the leading figures in the formation of the Public Relations Industry, who by the way is responsible for the way "news" is filtered into the public") just to get a different perspective. I do agree that not all journalist or reporters are bad and your right, rumors would be spread all over the globe but one really has to give up their integrity and values just to be part of the big news corporations. I really do respect independent journalist. they are they only source of news that I read or listen to
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    Sep 23 2011: Cordiva --

    The reason we "the people" don't tell the news is because:
    1. We think they are the experts and/or we think it is not our job
    2. We don't have the support or platform (read: money) to produce media pressure and/or PR and/or alternative sources

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      Sep 27 2011: A point the Andrea made on her question "What facts are facts" bears repeating here. She suggested there that there is often a price to be paid by individuals who tell the truth. They have kids to support so they cannot afford to lose their jobs, they have the safety of families to consider and they have financial considerations as well.

      Perhaps that is why many successful movements which created great changes in some societies in Latin America were led by middle aged women. Corporate or other interests had very little leverage against them and they had already lost what was most dear to them ( like when their sons were 'disappeared')so they chose to stand against the evils which were being perpetrated in their countries. Maybe this is also why the young are doing so well in leading the middle east changes.
  • Sep 21 2011: First you need an educated and unbiased people, dedicating most of their time to researching and doing a good job at communicating basic ideas. Most media may be biased or simple entertainment and have low quality, but bombarding us with more low quality and mediocre media, making it harder to find the critical thinking in high quality media is not a good solution. That's what chit-chatter, gossip, twitter and fb are for. All in all, you can have people spread the message, but for a good analysis, there has to be an effort and preparation.
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    Sep 21 2011: In case anyone is interested here are several examples of the Propaganda Model. Note that in most of these, the second and third stages are usually put together:
    in this video notice the first stage (presentation of what the story is going to be about, which in this case is religions role on politics). The second and third stage were put together with the introduction of Sam Harris (as an author) and Ralph Reed (the politician). Not to say anything bad about these individuals but look at how they were presented. She emphasized how Ralph Reed was a Former Director of the Christan Coalition. With Sam Harris book title "The End of Faith", one already knows the position he is taking. The third stage is the debate, but also how they want to convince you to not listen to Sam Harris (noted by how little Harris got to talk (from getting cut off) and how long Reed got to talk). or for a more detailed account watch this:
    the first stage on the first link is skipped in this video but you can see how Fox, wants to shut down any sort of liberal thinking. This includes both the second and third stage This is a clip taken from the Documentary "Outfoxed" which also talks about the systematic manipulation of the American Public by Rupert Murdoch.
    This shows all three stages, as well as how Richard Dawkins is labeled as "Atheist" as opposed to Physical Anthropologist

    hope this helps
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    Sep 27 2011: I am always struck by the distinction between my version of the truth when I have attended a newsworthy event and the media's version. Truth-telling from multiple points of view as innocently populated by everyday tweets and posts may be the ultimate media. Democratization of the middle road, of compromise really being lived, boldly being broken by radicals/revolutionaries/underdogs might emerge in the final tale from the incremental tiny truths revealed along our daily ways.
  • Sep 27 2011: Well there's a place on the menu area on the top of this page, right under TED Community which is surely waiting for a TED News!
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      Sep 27 2011: What a fantastic suggestion, Numa! Thumbs WAAAAAAY up!
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    Sep 26 2011: If they think its unbiased news and are entertained by it or it supports their ideals, then most will insist on trusting it. People tend to overlook disingenuous statements if they strongly agree with the underlying ideology.

    Therefore, the level of bias (if you could measure such a thing) in news outlets seems to be indicative of the strength of the populations ideology. The stronger the beliefs of the populace, the more bias and hyperbole will be tolerated. I imagine you could chart hyperbole or bias in news organizations with war or economy and see some interesting results.

    Another problem is tolerated news branding.

    The most trusted name in news - OK?? Says you.
    Whats happening and why - Sets many up for intellectual laziness and insults my intelligence (I can figure out why, just tell me what's happening)
    Fair and balanced - Outright lie

    These statements are misleading or disingenuous. The news is just entertainment under a false pretext.
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      Sep 26 2011: I totally agree..I see this connection between popular ideology and its connection with the meida very often in discourses about religion and especially with right wing news. It does not help that America predominatly values christian theology and lack awareness in politics....In otherwords, its very easy the news to convince them that what is being said is correct
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    Sep 24 2011: I really don't know what makes certain organizations just responsible for giving people what they want to know not the truth.
    given the term "truth" is totally vague
    so these organizations tell what's possible to be said
    given the fact that "meetings" are all closed
    afterwards "they" tell what is supposed to be said
    meanwhile, you see journalists have their sources or when they run like crazy to be the first to receive the news
    this mechanism is old fashion
    I personally don't understand, the environment has changed though "they" keep governments family like
    as it's for certain people, who said that?
    why do we have governments at all?
    security??!!!, we have governments now, we are not secure
    I think sometimes maybe terror is a move from governments themselves to keep being in power
    this age is gone, and so shall the system governing the old approach
    I really keep thinking what makes me believe what was told in the news is right
    is it possible to check how correct the news were!, sure no
    I can go on, when an old guy talking to his young children, is it always the truth said there? or what the father thinks suite the kid, assuming when he grows "enough" he would know
    at that time, he will be going for some time trying to figure out the benefits, consequently coping with the idea
  • Sep 24 2011: I believe that the news will lean towards a certain amount of bias, no matter who reports it. In order to collect a credible amount of information from many sources, many people will have to be involved, thus turning it into an organization of sorts. Most individuals are not quick to take on lengthy tasks without some sort of substantial reward in sight, so that is where benefits come into play. Many individuals have a lot going on in their lives, so why take on the job of reporting on top of the job they already have?
  • Sep 24 2011: I guess this is just a nationalistic point of view. Laws govern the way that news can be offered. I studied news and journalism in the radio broadcasting environment and we were taught what we could, and could not do and say because we are not allowed to show bias in any story. For news stories, they are chosen by the journalists and studied by the journalists. And fortunately for me, the journalists I met are the people, just regular people who live their lives the same way as everyone else does. The only major difference is that the journalists are trained to study news stories and ask the right questions to garner the proper information needed to actually tell the story properly. I am sure this isn't the same with news media worldwide, but I do know it is the way journalism and news media works in the industry I obtained my training in.
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    Sep 23 2011: Hi all, very interesting chain of comments...just a few points from an Indian perspective....News has become a tool in the hands of the influential, specially in India. Lobbies in government, business and larger social life co-create news all the time. Every news channel in India survives on a diet of 'breaking news' and 'scams'. These are regularly served up to viewers. The sources & timing of these stories is often motivated by a lobby. Indian citizens have become consumers of news & information rather than creators of the same. As internet penetration improves a lot of local news and 'feelings' & 'thoughts' are getting posted on twitter, facebook and shared via mail or sms. this represents a new and very interesting trend in India...if you look at mobile penetration which is still increasing at 5-7 million handsets per month and the fact that we already have 650-700 million mobile users, the opportunities to co-create news has increased exponentially. News, its relevance and the politics that governs the choice of news will see a sea-change in India in the next few years. i believe the younger demographics of the country & high literacy rate in the middle classes will challenge the existing bastions from which news emanates.
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    Sep 21 2011: news is what rich men wants you to hear
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    Sep 20 2011: i don't have much to contribute here sadly, but i always thought it was a bit strange. media companies are the only form of news awareness for many people... but those news companies and reporters miss half of the real news, or ignore the half of the story they aren't reporting on. perhaps people should be focusing on methods to find news out by themselves, becoming more self-sufficient. we'd benefit greatly, so much is done for us that we just trust the media companies word when they're giving us the news. are we aware enough that just because it's on tv or the internet... doesn't mean it's true?
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      Sep 20 2011: People can be very lazy about finding news out for themselves. I think the tools and infrastructure is in place to create a community site of news submissions for local communities. See my first reply to Debra Smith for more information on that idea.

      Finding your own sources also poses the question of how do you verify a good source of news? How do you know that your source is actually right or at least as close to the truth as possible?
  • Sep 24 2011: Why don't 'the people' tell the news? That's what I thought blogs were for.
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    Sep 21 2011: That's exactly the project I'm trying to promote in my country, Honduras. The news here is extremely sensationalist, focussing only on the negative events.

    This effects us as a country not only internally but globally. The most popular journal in my country has metadata in their site with keywords like "massacre, kidnapping, floods, poverty" so we rank higher in news with these topics. We're trying to start a community newsfeed/blog about positive ideas and initiatives happening now and also create and interest for these positive topics (sadly most Hondurans are stagnate and indifferent when it comes to good events, since continuing them require some kind of effort on their behalf ).

    We're really struggling with getting people on board with the concept.

    What do you think is a creative and innovative way to get people to start talking and connecting and start telling their stories, their news?

    We're working as a non-profit org, so we can't really offer monetary awards. I've thought about using vanity for charity, perhaps offer people those 15min of fame but for "heroic" act.

    I use quotation marks for the word heroic because sometimes, the simplest things feel very heroic, because they require so much sacrifice and will power.

    Perhaps start featuring small and ordinary acts, yet heroic to some. Like someone that wakes up at dawn to run everyday. Or feature a family that has adopted a child.

    I'm looking for ideas to inspire people to wake up and be part of a nation through will and conviction, not just by residence and cultural affinity.

    If anybody has any ideas. Please let me know!
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    Sep 20 2011: Hi Corvida! Great question. I think it is an issue of dissemination and perhaps of teaching old dogs new tricks. This is where we need our young adults to lead us. Tell us older adults how to do it. I will then do it. All of my life I got the news from traditional sources and other sources were sort of considered incredible or gossip.Remember we did not grow up with the hope or the reality of TED. Now we have it we have to retrain our minds and we need the young to tell us what their fresh, untainted, unprogramed eyes see.
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      Sep 20 2011: Debra, I've always gotten my news from close relatives and friends on a regular basis and sometimes from my colleagues at TED also. This is very localized news though and I feel I get more information from the people on the ground rather than the media empires across the globe.

      I think the tools are certainly in place now to start utilizing platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Blogs to start creating our own local community news platforms that are then filtered and solicited to major news companies.

      This is just 1 of many idea/concepts I have about this.

      I personally run into the problem of wondering which news sites to trust as sources of information and that's is almost completely dependent upon the topic of discussion. That's a nightmare for me at 23. I don't have the patience, motivation, or time to fact check every source. I'm way more trusting of my community though because they're on the ground experiencing first hand the things that I'd like to hear more about.
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        Sep 20 2011: Lindsay, Andrea and I have been working on three separate questions here on TED individually and together. We have all become deeply concerned about the media, credibility, access to information and I am wondering what would make us all alarmed at the same time. In our lifetime there has never been an opportunity like TED conversations represents. It is an amazing world changing hope.
        There have always been special interests that worked to spin the news. Access has not always been easy. Watergate, things about Vietnam, things about all wars were hidden from the public but somehow with a credible source like TED teaching us the truth of things maybe what we are feeling is the dark before the dawn. Let's hope so.
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          Sep 21 2011: Yes, and it just clicked for me in responding to a comment by Ajeet at his talk on oil, that without information we dont' even know what most affects our lives and determines our futures.

          In that sense I would have to take issue with the proposition of this question..The long information gap in news, and the growing complexity of our world today has created a great distance between "we the people" and what we need to know to keep our governement responsive to us at the national leel and to insure that our place in the wolrd of nations is responsive to "we the citizens of the world" How can we drive the news if aren't even in possession of critical information..can't even pose rhe right questions?

          Special interests as you say Debra, have always tried to spin the news..that seems much easier outlet are all partioned by ideology and political orintation ( I wouldn't dream of watching Fox news and those wtachers prbably wouldn't dream of wtaching Rachel Maddow or Charlie Rose or tune in to Democracy Now or NPR. There is nothing to defelect spin and distortion because as you are exploring in your loss of balanced journalism conversation, we don't have any sources of balalnced unbiased reporting anymore.

          I think if "we the people" can learn to think and seek information beyond political affilitation and ideology we can begin to rebuild the 4th estate to be what it needs to be to support democracy and freedom wolrd wide.
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        Sep 21 2011: This is the crux of the issue. So much spin, so much propaganda, so many special interest groups saying that pink is red, blue is black, white is black, tobacco is good to kids in third world countries after first world countries proved that they were liars. Marketing baby formula in areas of the world with no clean water without conscience. How does the average person discern? How do we gather and disseminate the information we do find.
        Whistle blowers who tell the truth are against well paid PR specialists who have market survey data charting just what arguments are working when they lie to the public. PR specialists are expert in making the white knight look like a crazy, a criminal or a liar.
        That is an additional part of the story, so many truth tellers are spun as crazy conspiracy theorists that we no longer believe in them at all. I find myself very critical of conspiracy theories and for years I just dismissed all of this information on the premise that society worked better than that and it would be impossible to get so many people to participate in a major cover up. After an MBA, I no longer believe that. Isn't that weird? I go into the education reserved for those who put all of their weight behind corporations and the material they give me to study convinces me of how bad the problem really is. I went from a sleep walker to fully awake when I realized the tactics were being used against our kids, our families, our pocketbooks.
      • Sep 23 2011: I'm doing this as well. I've stopped watching and reading mainstream news on a regular basis for almost two years now.