Howto: be a smart consumer of breaking news

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Not particularly on topic, but one thing I’ve noticed, and it doesn’t really make much sense to me, is that when there is some kind of major tragedy, all the news outlets (BBC, CNN, etc.) will post initial casualty figures, and they will all be different. Then, as the day wears on, the other outlets’ numbers will fluctuate up and down as more information comes in, until they finally hone in on…what the BBC reported initially.

Not, I think, precisely the case yesterday.


The news has always been a business, however much we’d like it to be a public service.


All obvious stuff as I read through the list, but it’s good to be reminded of it. The media Jedi mind tricks will work on us if we let them. Your post is an inoculation against them.


The first one is the most important, I would think.

In the immediate aftermath, news outlets will get it wrong.

It seems to me most unwise to form a strong opinion on the basis of incomplete information.


I am still hearing conflicting reports, even though I think the number has been pretty well established by now: some news reports say that 12 people were shot, while others correctly state that 12 police officers were shot plus two civilians. I think the ones in the first category just forget about the two civilians :frowning2:

And they all “forgot” that police are fucking civilians.


^ this.

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I guess it’s the easiest way to specify people-who-are-not-police in this situation, even if it’s not correct. But I get your point.


Brooke Gladstone is a highly reputable source on this topic. I’ve liked a lot of things she turned out to be behind the scenes in.

Remember, the WWW makes available primary sources on a lot of things like court decisions, laws, and bills. Don’t trust anyone to interpret them for you–especially when the interpretation seem outrageous. Read them for yourself before commenting on them.

You also have to assume everything is horribly, horribly skewed. Even if it IS accurate, it’s still wildly out of balance and deceptive.

We have several billion people on this planet, and the news outlets filter thorough them for the best bite-sized bits of horror to maximize your views and clicks.

‘Nothing particularly bad happened and everybody was groovy’ doesn’t get reported.

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