Truth in the Electronic Age

by Auren Hoffman, Berkeley CA

People are too quick to accept someone's word as truth in today's world of moving electrons and instant media. Every television station, newspaper, magazine, and radio show is biased. There is no such thing as totally objective, nonpartisan reporting. Media should be biased - but they should be forthcoming about the bias.

CNN news reports always defend Clinton at any cost while the Wall Street Journal can always find the up-side to a Republican folly. The Washington Times and the Washington Post usually report on the same story in two very different ways. But the average reader, watcher, or listener does not understand this. The average Joe needs to be taught that what the media reports, and how it reports, reflects upon the personal views of those who are doing the reporting (or those who own the media).

Listening to news reports is almost like overhearing a locker-room conversation about Sally sleeping with the football team and Jim killing his math teacher. There is probably some truth to the report but rarely is it fully accurate. Sally probably slept with only one football player and Jim probably said that he wanted to beat up his math teacher. Every time a story is reported it gets transformed. News reports are no different from the game "telephone" that you used to play when you were a kid.

I discussed this topic with a friend of mine who said, "I don't believe news stories immediately when I hear them, but, I tend to believe it after hearing the same story from multiple sources." My friend has the wrong attitude. How many times have you heard that the Republicans are cutting Medicare? At least 1000. But the GOP proposed to increase Medicare - they just want a smaller increase than the Democrats. Government officials, sports figures, and businesspeople should always be innocent until proven guilty. Remember, Sally's rumor probably got around her high school too.

All said, however, you have to believe in something -- though you can't take a report only at face value. I never believe "facts" until I complete the proper research and take some time to determine my opinion. For instance, I believe the world is round and have not joined the "Flat Earth Society." I don't have any real proof of the world's shape and I never tried to sail around the world, but a preponderance of the evidence suggests that the world is indeed round.

With information overload coming at our population, many of us choose a medium to filter the information for us. This is very dangerous. We should take advantage of the availability of news from different sources and determine our opinions after thought and rational decision making.

Copyright © 1996 Auren Hoffman. All rights reserved.

About the Author:
Auren Hoffman is an editor for the Internet Herald and a senior majoring in Industrial Engineering and Operations Research at UC Berkeley.

Auren is also a partner in Kyber Systems and built Guestimate, the highly touted guestbook package.