I have to ask: Where do you get your news every day? What media outlet do you rely on to provide you with the best coverage of events you should know about?
Many people will reply by saying, “I don’t trust any of them” and, to some degree, the media has nobody to blame but themselves for that assessment. But it still doesn’t answer the question: Who do you turn to for your news?
A century ago, the answer was probably either newspapers or the local barber shop or beauty salon. Then television came along. At one time, CBS newsman Walter Cronkite was thought to be “the most trusted man in America.” I wonder how Cronkite and his peers would fare in today’s world of cable news, panels of analysts and opinion spewers.
During a dinner table conversation with a friend last year, the friend lashed out at the bias of the news media. He said he watched nothing but Fox News because Fox News reported stories that the other networks didn’t touch. I teased him a bit. I asked him if the only network he ever watched was Fox News, how did he know what other networks were reporting, or not reporting.
I understood his point – and he is certainly not alone. But there’s another factor at play. Viewers watch Fox News or MSNBC or CNN because they think those networks are more closely aligned with their point of view. I have learned that psychologists have a term for this. It is called “confirmation bias,” meaning that we gravitate to the entity that confirms whatever bias we might have – and believe as gospel truth whatever that entity might tell us.
Do you have confirmation bias? I have to admit that I do. We all do.
It applies to all forms of media. I have learned over the years that I have a fairly steady audience of readers who often let me know what they think of me and my musings. It would be awfully tempting to try to write something every week that I think everyone will agree with and thereby create or sustain a confirmation bias that will keep them reading week after week.
It doesn’t work that way. For one thing, it’s impossible to write something that everyone agrees with and it’s not the purpose. My goal is always to write a column that people will read and react to. Some times their reaction is negative. In my world, that’s better than no reaction.
Incidentally, confirmation bias applies to many other aspects of our lives besides the media. In today’s political climate, it might affect who you want to sit next to at Thanksgiving dinner.
But let’s get back to where we started. Where do you get your news every day and why? Do you have a confirmation bias? I’ll bet you do.