Or Why “Research” doesn’t mean “Evidence”…
This brief essay is only meant to be a reminder about all the reasons we still need media literacy in the world. In an era where the importance of context and rhetoric have heightened; terms like “Fact-Checker”, “Misinformation” and “Fake News” have become household. It’s important to keep these simple things in mind as a reminder that we all need to read our media more carefully and always do more research.
1. Interpreting The Facts
What is Fact, may not always be common knowledge amongst people. But the facts are indeed facets of an ever-present trueness. That trueness is consistent and can be interpreted and analyzed from many different angles and cultural contexts (order to better understand that Truth and the facts that correspond with it).
This should be obvious, but just because a source you rely on for information says that something happened or that something is true, that of course, doesn’t necessarily make it so. Even if a person with a degree says something is true or that they’ve studied a matter and has discovered something to be true, that doesn’t mean it is true.
This doesn’t mean that all which is said by others is untrue, it just means we should take a critical and analytical approach to interpreting our media and interpreting the context, source, and content of the media we encounter.
2. “Fake News”
The term “Fake News” is a tricky one. Usually when people hear it they get all excited; primarily because our former president used the term to basically call out any press that didn’t favor him.
This is a term that must be carefully addressed and used cautiously. There are two question that must be answered: 1) “What does it mean to be fake?” and 2) “What is news?”. The problem that comes with this term is that it is very much politicized and vague. If something is reported online or in the media that is not true; journalist and reporters must work to correct the mistake.
If there is something that is intentionally being disseminated in order to deceive, we must not only address this falsity and correct it, we must also educate people on the true facts, while teaching people how to think critically about information and media.
News and information is not only given credibility through its associations, its credibility is often associated with its presentation and aesthetic.
People should be educated on aesthetic in media and learn why people are so easily fooled by media outlets that can so easily emulate an aesthetic that has been developed and trusted for decades by readers all over the world. .
3. Research and Evidence
Just because something is published and is said to be evidence for a particular claim, it doesn’t mean that is necessarily “evidence”. A citation doesn’t prove the premise to be true. Just because studies were reported, research was conducted, it doesn’t mean that research or studies were conducted truthfully or that the reports are exempt from bias. This means that people should also learn and get educated on how to read research and data in order to make sound conclusions about what that data means. One should take a close look at the studies conducted in an article and also take a look at how the research is being interpreted for that particular article or study. Try to find the original publication containing the study, if possible.
In the English language, one word may have many different meanings, and words are consistently shifting in meaning due to the speed of communications and the ability to contextualize information for massive amounts of people. Carefully consider the context a word is used and don’t be a stranger to researching the meaning and even the origin of words to have an even more sound understanding of when a word is being used properly or improperly.
5. Beware of Labels
We are creatures of categorization, judgement and labeling. It’s natural for human beings to want to put a name to something. It helps us makes sense of things. But always be concerned about name-calling and labeling someone’s beliefs or their identity in regards to what is factual or false.
The same energy you put into labeling someone else’s ideas could go to actually explaining or discovering the statements validity. Labeling is often a lazy way of generalizing alternatives viewpoints or dismissing them entirely.
Instead, it is better to determine, is what the person saying true or not true, why or why not? Try to be analytical, inquisitive and thorough when addressing alternative viewpoints — you may learn something new.
Finally, I think what may be more important than the news itself is which stories are selected as news on any given day. It gives us great insight into the of spirit of the day and if we can hear it, we can pick up on the mood and subtle suggestions within the stories that are told in the media.
We learn more about the curating of news process. We may gain some insight to what stories are selected, what stories are selected less, and what stories may be selected in the future.
I think if we consider all of this, we will be able to give ourselves more time to come to rational conclusions on the information we come across and learn when to take a break from it all when necessary.
To learn more about this idea in more detail, read my article on Invisible Impact