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Make Yourself Smarter

Updated on February 22, 2019
Kathleen Cochran profile image

Kathleen Cochran is a writer & former newspaper reporter/editor who traveled the world as a soldier's better half. Her works are on Amazon.


I'm a baby boomer, and it amazes me how many of my contemporaries almost brag that they don't watch the news or read newspapers. They have no shortage of opinions though, so it begs the question: where do you get the information that formulates those incessant opinions?

As a career journalist, I'd advise anyone of any generation to be a wide-ranged consumer of information, never gleaning all your intel from just one or two sources. I've never bought into the conspiracy theories about the media, having never seen any hard evidence of it firsthand after more than a decade in the industry. (Instances have certainly been documented beyond my limited experience.) But the fact remains, there is only so much airtime. There are only so many column inches. The real bias lies in what editors chose to cover and what they leave on the cutting room floor or never send a crew out to cover. The very process of elimination that is the heart of daily or hourly production meetings is where the real prejudice lies. And there is no way to remove that human factor from the process. A limited number of people decide what the news is every day. That's not going to change.

Which is why the Internet is such a great tool for informing the public, but buyer beware. Forums and blogs are not news organizations. No one is editing or fact-checking. No one is certainly writing retractions or corrections. You can access myriad news organizations and public records via the Net. Pick a couple that are perceived to be liberal, a few that are perceived to be conservative, and a couple who have the reputation for being "Just the facts, m'am." (If you're not a Boomer, you might not get that reference!) Educate yourself to the difference between news reporting and commentary - then read some of both.

In my first journalism course as a freshman at the University of Georgia (one of the country's most prestigeous J-schools - a little bias from a grad!) they showed us a film (it was the Dark Ages) of three news anchors reading the same story. One had been directed to read it with a positive spin, one with a negative spin, and one as impartially as he possibly could. Our assignment was to determine which was which. After much heated debate we pooled our answers and they broke down as an even number of votes for each observed bias between all three anchors. Then we were told each anchor had been directed to read the story as objectively as they could. The bias was on our part as the audience and what we were watching for. All I'm saying is it was an interesting exercise in human nature.

Simply put: if you only have one source of information on a regular basis, YOU are as biased as the organizations you are criticising. Be a smart consumer of news: then let's hear those opinions. You'll have something to say that is worth hearing.

You probably don't want to see how news gets made any more than laws or sausages:


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    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Check your sources - that is the key. Is this information coming from a commentary, a blog, Facebook or Twitter or is it coming from a news agency with reporters, editors, a legal department? Is the person making these comments accountable to anyone other than him/herself? Is this information being repeated by other credible sources? This is a citizen's job. It is time-consuming and takes some effort and intelligence. Those who are not up to the task, have no one to blame but themselves when they are duped. Thanks for your comments.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 

      2 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

      I tend to take the news at face-value. I'm learning to check my sources now and your article has come at a perfect time. It's too bad that we can't accept information as the truth.

      Thank you so much, Kathleen.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      2 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Whether the Russians manipulated social media in 2016, whether Trump was involved, the bottom line is this Americans fell for it. You know how to prevent that from happening again? Check your sources of information before you modify your behavior/beliefs because of something you read/hear.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      3 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      There is an article in today's Washington Post that made me remember this article. It's time for many of us to rethink our sources of information - especially if we only have one.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Charlie: Could not agree more. Thanks for commenting.

    • CharlieClaywell profile image

      Charlie Claywell 

      5 years ago

      Very good article and I agree wholeheartedly with what you are saying. A 'one source' of news approach leads to strong, highly-biased opinions. It is one of my biggest complaints with social media -- especially Facebook. People share, like and comment on information without validating the source -- or even considering an opposing viewpoint. This feeds into a person's desire to believe a 'fact,' reduces complex issues to pithy one-liners and discourages conversation. The more sources a person reads, the more valid their opinion becomes, because they have considered all sides of the argument.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      7 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      mbuggieh: You got the point. Welcome to my hubs. Hope to see you again!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      An essential point: There is a great deal of content on the web---some of it information, some of it masquerading as information. As you note: Buyer beware.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      8 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      If you are going to contribute so much to the hubs of mine that you read, I hope you will read them all. You are like a good editor, B. Leekley. You make my hub better with your comments. Thanks.

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 

      8 years ago from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA

      Up, Useful, and Interesting. This hub is excellent advice.

      I also learned long ago that when I read an attack on a position, a politician, or whatever, to look for the good that is grudgingly admitted, and when reading praise of a position, a politician, or whatever, to look for the faults that are grudgingly admitted.

      I also keep asking "says who?" and "is that insinuation substantiated"? And I question word choices. One person's "fall of" is another person's "liberation of", and one person's "illegal alien" is another person's "undocumented immigrant", and one person's "collateral damage" is another person's blown to bits child, and so on.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      9 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Oh man! I used to be a small town newspaper editor and you just wrote my worst nightmare! But thanks for reading this article and taking the time to comment. It is appreciated.

    • suzettenaples profile image

      Suzette Walker 

      9 years ago from Taos, NM

      Very interesting and pertinent hub. And, I agree with you 100%. The audience must have different sources of information, otherwise they only get one dimensional news. As difficult as it is, I do sometimes listen to people like Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter as well as Bill Maher and Chris Matthews, as just one example. I tend to read the national newspapers more than the local ones and then I wonder why I don't know what's going on in town. LOL This is a very good article and one so many should read. Thanks for sharing.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      9 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Thanks CloudExplorer and phdast7 for the read and comments. CE - welcome to my hubs!

    • CloudExplorer profile image

      Mike Pugh 

      9 years ago from New York City

      Very interesting take on the whole journalist thing with the news and all, I think people just need to be wise in general.

      I also agree if someone is in search of some accurate expert Intel, they definitely shouldn't be don't looking for a blog for it all, because if a network like wikipedia can have false or misleading info imagine everywhere else on the web.

      There's subject matter opinion makers, and than there's the experts who work behind the scene's in real life. Go figure right! great hub here and voted up.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      9 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Terrific advice. The only way to access balanced and fair news information is by regularly exposing oneself to several different sources with different political leanings...and then think, compare, evaluate, and reach a reasoned, fact-based conclusion. There is no source completely free of bias, but we can limit the bias we are exposed to and we can minimize its effects by reading thoughtfully from a variety of trusted resources. Excellent hub. SHARING

    • Kathleen Cochran profile imageAUTHOR

      Kathleen Cochran 

      10 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      CBS has blown its cover on objectivity several times. In fact, I can't name one network that hasn't at one time or another. I'll give the Google news reader a try!

    • Phil Plasma profile image

      Phil Plasma 

      10 years ago from Montreal, Quebec

      It is so true. I often read the CBC news site and find that their angle is often particularly one-sided. I like using Google news reader as then I can read three or four different sources of a specific new story. Great hub earning you a vote up.

    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 

      10 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Great Hub. Baby Boomers and the populace in general often pride themselves on not watching or reading any news. This is quite sad. It results in a citizenry who gets all up in arms over things that they often don't understand or try to understand. That's how the Tea Party was born. The legitimate outrage over deficits and spending was spun out of control by Corporate America and their minions who fund them. I read and watch many different sources from different views. Always remember that most sites have definite political slants.

    • HattieMattieMae profile image


      10 years ago from Europe

      I agree with you. lol Many sources is the best about every subject on the planet and valid ones at that! :)


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