Media misses major questions in quest for ‘breaking news’

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“All the news that is worth printing.”

It is the historic motto of the New York Times. But the media often miss “all the information” and are selective due to their limited resources or their own biases. Perhaps the press rushes too hard to beat the competition; not everything is “breaking news“.

Here are some questions the media could have answered.

Last week’s Maine GOP convention featured former Gov. Paul LePage seeking to reclaim his former office, as did former President Donald Trump, his political ally. Will Trump follow LePage’s example? Does he now approve of LePage? Did someone ask him?

Summarizing the work of the Legislative Assembly, media reported that Governor Janet Mills’ Public Service Accountability Bill had passed. Democratic opposition was noted, but the substance of intra-party differences was not explained.

Was Mills’ proposal intended to immunize him from criticism of his veto of a consumer power referendum? Did the Democrats finally accept his bill because they fear weakening him in his race against LePage?

A draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court has been leaked that would reverse its earlier Roe v. Wade that abortion is a constitutionally guaranteed right. The media reported that a narrow judicial majority would oppose the views of about two-thirds of Americans, who favor the right.

Reports of political opposition to the bill suggest the decision could lead to additional support in November for Democrats, who support the right. But did the pollsters ask how many people on each side would let abortion rights get them to the polls or determine their vote above all other issues?

The United States has done everything possible to help the beleaguered Ukraine. Both political parties support massive spending to provide the weapons that President Volodymyr Zelensky has requested. America’s tolerant policy toward Russia changed, and the United States reasserted its role as leader of the West.

Does Washington quietly believe there is a good chance that Russia can finally be overthrown as a world power as it depletes its economy and military?

To reduce the global use of Russian fuels, the West wants to increase the production of oil and natural gas. That means more drilling and fracking, not less. At the same time, experts are beginning to say that the world may be pursuing unrealistic climate change goals, undermining the chances of success.

Are we backtracking on ambitious climate change goals to deal with a war that has turned the world upside down? Do our electric cars and other individual efforts to protect the environment matter when China increases its use of coal?

Inflation is perhaps the biggest news, mainly because it affects almost everyone. With voters aware of the problem, the media is reporting Republican efforts to blame President Joe Biden.

How did the GOP vote on big spending bills, including aid to Ukraine? Is inflation partly due to COVID-19 and the disruptive effect of the war in Ukraine on trade? To what extent did Federal Reserve policy cause the problem? Experts can speculate, but attacks on Biden are easier to report.

We hear a lot about “fake news,” but this failure to ask the right questions is actually “half-news.” The reports are not inaccurate, but they are incomplete. When information lacks context for us to understand its context and complexity, it can lead to confusion.

Of course, there are the serious problems of reporting based on false assumptions and fake news.

We are often told, perhaps in good faith, that something is true, and then “logical” conclusions are drawn from that supposed truth. We accept assumptions and often accept logic easily.

The media are mistaken almost daily in their assumptions about Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Can he really draw instant political conclusions from a draft Supreme Court decision?

Dubious assumptions, stated as if they were self-evident, exist in both liberal and conservative media. When conservative and liberal media differ even on their assumptions, the political divide is understandable.

Worse still is “fake news”, a statement that the author or speaker knows to be false. The New York Times covered Fox commentator Tucker Carlson, who broadcasts from his home in Maine. He said the “Gypsy” refugees left Pennsylvania “the streets covered – forgive us now, but it’s true – with human excrement”. He didn’t provide any proof of that, and it’s not true.

Scientific American recently said that fake news is believed and shared more by some conservatives than other viewers. But we all love news that confirms our opinions.

The print media sometimes check facts in their own reporting, but not often enough in the news itself. Who checks the news excerpts on the electronic media? Both need to do more.

We cannot expect perfection from the media. We, too, must do more to uncover the facts in our complex world.

About Cedric Lloyd

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