catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 4, Num 23 :: 2005.12.16 — 2005.12.29


Reporting on the source

From what sources do you get your news information?

D.H.: Newspapers, primarily the NYTimes, secondarily our local Rochester Post Bulletin. I then follow up specific stories on the Internet to track down further information as desired.

P.B.: Television news channels, radio station.

C.N.: Most of the news I look at is from NPR in the mornings on my 25-minute drive to school and the paper in the evening. I watch the news on TV very rarely because I watch very little TV. I find radio and the newspaper a little less sensationalistic.

B.B.: We get most of our news from two sources—NPR in the morning and afternoon, and breaking news through Yahoo which we use as our homepage. We do not have a television and don’t subscribe to a newspaper, although the other family that lives in our house does and they sometimes pass on relevant articles.

What criteria do you use in choosing news sources?

D.H.: Substance, by which I mean pieces which seem to go beyond merely a summary of the ?top? stories, especially if the ?top? stories seem to be chosen more for glamour than for actual importance.

P.B.: I’m strongly affected by sound, so if I don’t like an announcer’s voice or style, I won’t listen to them—I can’t focus on what they’re saying, or I can’t take them seriously.

C.N.: Mostly convenience. Newspapers are more convenient to me than TV, I guess. I do catch some articles on the Internet, but they tend to bend the same way that TV news does.

B.B.: The big thing is, a news source has to actually offer some news. I used to do an analysis exercise with my students looking at television news. Next time you watch it, take notes, you’ll be amazed at how much more coverage Binky the waterskiing squirrel gets over, say, today’s house vote to retain the tax cuts on the capital gains tax. We like NPR and CBC because both of them offer longer segments that explain a whole story. And because they are on the radio, we can be doing something else—eating breakfast, driving to work, etc) while they are on.

Do you interpret information differently from a particular family member or friend? How do you deal with this difference and still maintain a relationship?

D.H.: My wife and I have similar views, and share that perspective with a close circle of friends. I differ strongly, on the other hand, with my father who often emails me op-ed pieces from fundamentalist sites interpreting news stories in the light of ?biblical prophecy.? Most of the time I simply don?t respond and we don?t discuss it, since these stories are always accorded ?biblical truth.? When urban legends are involved (which is often), I provide a link to show the falsehood, and occasionally I will add a note that suggests a counter-balancing point or two.

P.B.: I have a few friends who have different view points about a number of political and cultural things. We avoid the subjects that are likely to cause problems.

B.B.: I have a good friend who really keeps a good handle on alternative news sources. I rely on him to keep me up to date on that world. I don’t buy everything he directs me to- but some of the stories really make me wonder. I still find myself thinking about some of the stuff the alternative press has put out there regarding the accusation by many New Orleans residents that the US Army Corps of Engineers blew a couple of holes in one of the levees in order to sacrifice the poorer parts of town and save the richer areas. That gives me pause.

Liberals accuse the media of having a conservative bias and conservatives accuse the media of having a liberal bias. What is your opinion in this debate?

D.H.: That it is stupid. Every reporter has a perspective, even the ones trying to be the most objective, careful, and balanced. Reading with discernment, including pieces from alternative points of view (especially from your own) is more important than engaging in this debate. Actually, the only reporter I?d not want to read would be the one who actually and honestly had no point of view on the topic?it would mean they don?t really care about it very much, which would concern me far more than noticing some hint of ?bias? in their report.

P.B.: I’m one of the ones that feels like most media people tend to be liberal, but I also think that they often write what the manager or editor tells them to write.

C.N.: Everything is biased, though much of it I do believe is unintentional. It’s not possible to look at anything without having my own background influence the way I see it. That goes for others presenting the information to me as well.

B.B.: I think it is an empty accusation unless tied to specific stories. My Dad, who is a committed conservative, believes the media has a liberal bias whenever they don’t report favorably on the war in Iraq. It is my opinion that the press is part of our country?s system of checks and balances—and they had better be looking critically at anything that any administration is doing. Besides, I think a conservative would be hard put to argue that the media went easy on President Clinton during the Lewinski scandal.

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