Take ten – the most and least trusted news sources

The University of Missouri Reynolds Journalism Institute conducted a survey of over 8,700 people last year. The mission was to determine the most trusted and least trusted news sources.

Per a link to the survey from an article in Marketwatch.com, “the questionnaire asked respondents to name three news brands they typically trust and three they don’t. Kearney (the survey leader) took a look at brands that came up at least 10 times and compared how often they were mentioned as trusted versus mentioned as not trusted. These lists show the relationship between positive and negative mentions. The responses were opened ended, and some answers aren’t actual news brands.

Mentioned as trusted:

The Economist
Public television
Reuters
BBC
NPR
PBS
The Guardian
The Wall Street Journal
Los Angeles Times
The Dallas Morning News

Mentioned as not trusted:

Occupy Democrats
BuzzFeed
Breitbart
Social media
Trump
Infowars
Yahoo
Internet
Huffington Post
The Blaze”

I found these results quite interesting for several reasons. The obvious is an individual who is listed as one of the least trusted sources of news. He would be the one telling everyone to trust only him and other news is “fake news” when it is disagreeable to him. Also, the appearance of Breitbart and Infowars on the least trusted list is telling, as well as Occupy Democrats whose name sounds biased.

On the positive side, the names on the most trusted list are very deserving in my view. Personally, through a combination of trial and error and recommendation, I frequently use five of the top ten sources – Reuters, BBC, NPR, PBS Newshour and The Guardian. I have read occasional articles by The Economist, but need to check them out more. A blogging friend, who passed away a few years ago, suggested I check out Reuters and The Guardian. I remember him well for that.

If you are getting your news from one of the least trusted ten, please stop. I would suggest you give a few of the sources from the top ten most trusted a view. Using multiple good sources helps me learn new things and gain perspective.

With the person mentioned in the bottom ten also occupying the White House, it is important we get our news from good sources and not him. He is deserving of his position on the bottom list with a 69% “mostly false or worse” frequency per Politifacts. It is important to us and a key to our democracy. Who prescribes such – only our founding fathers.

Homeland Security approaches John Oliver’s Wall Cost Estimate

In previous posts, I have commented on the news analysis used in John Oliver’s comedy show called “Last Week Tonight.” Amid the comedy, there are detailed news stories about pay-day lending, supplemental drugs, court system abuse of low-income offenders, voting fraud, etc. During interviews, he has been recognized by at least two legitimate news sources, CBS News and PBS Newshour, for his team’s veracity.

Last year, well before the election, Oliver had a news/ comedy piece on our then campaigner, Donald Trump, about Trump’s estimates of his escalating price tag on his infamous wall. In various clips, Trump said $2 Billion, then he would increase it to $4 Billion then to $7 or $8 Billion, etc. I think Trump topped out around $12 Billion.

Oliver asked a construction engineer to come up with an estimate. Based on broad assumptions (height, materials, etc.), the engineer estimated $25 to $30 Billion. The engineer also added you have to factor in the cost of ongoing maintenance, which is not inconsequential.

Yesterday, Reuters published a story where Homeland Security estimates the cost of the wall. Here are the two lead paragraphs from Reuters:

“President Donald Trump’s ‘wall’ along the U.S.-Mexico border would be a series of fences and walls that would cost as much as $21.6 billion, and take more than three years to construct, based on a U.S. Department of Homeland Security internal report seen by Reuters on Thursday.

The report’s estimated price-tag is much higher than a $12-billion figure cited by Trump in his campaign and estimates as high as $15 billion from Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.”

There are two key takeaways here. Our now President likes to toss figures and data around like they are candy and offers them up without back-up. He just presumes people will take him at his word. In this case, a man who is a real-estate developer significantly underestimated the cost of building something.

The other takeaway is Oliver’s team should be commended for the underlying journalism in his comedy show. I have written before his team has far more credibility than some actual news sources who do not want to take the time to get it right or are so biased they take a politician at his word. So, the next time our President makes fun of Oliver, my suggestion would be to look more closely at Oliver’s position as he likely did more homework.

 

This is the dawning of the age of disinformation

For fans of the 5th Dimension, I recognize my use of the word “disinformation” has one more syllable than “Aquarius,” but it is better than “alternate facts.” This is the new term being spoonfed to us before being lied to by the new White House. Our new President, who has a history of treating the truth as a commodity, has hired two spokespeople that now lie to cover up their boss’ lies.

Kellyanne Conway said they were presenting “alternate facts,” which is an oxymoron that begs the input of George Carlin who was famous for oxymoron questions. As Carlin famously asked about jumbo shrimp, are they big shrimp or little jumbos? Are alternate facts untruthful facts or factual variations?

The sad part of this new era is how easily these alternate facts can be shown to be untrue. Yet, these spin doctors, which is a nice way of saying paid liars, are lying about inconsequential stuff. The size of the crowd and size of the TV audience are not worth losing goodwill over. Yet, if they will lie about something of no consequence, what will happen on bigger issues.

On inauguration day, there were two additional stories worth reporting that went unannounced. First, Sean Spicer made no mention that our new President signed an executive order in his first hours that reversed a planned mortgage premium rate reduction scheduled to go into effect at month end. This would have saved over one million middle class homeowners money. Weren’t these the people our President swore to look after?

Second, while speaking of build in America and buy American, his followers were wearing caps to “Make America Great Again” made in China, Vietnam and Bangladesh. Not only is this hypocrisy, but it shows what a poor planner the President is, as being a good manager has been a shortcoming. Why would you risk such discovery?

Finally, he has decided to continue his war on the media. Yet, what he fails to realize is the media is far-reaching and credible media is now presenting his office’s comments side by side with fact checks. When you are known for lying throughout your career, it is good journalism to show where statements made by our President or one if his surrogates is untrue. I wish they did this during the campaign, as he was the most prodigious liar since 2007 when such fact checking began.

Let me be candid. I did not vote for this man and advocated against his candidacy. This was a key reason. Yet, he is our President, so we must hope he does some good things and protest when he goes down a bad path. What will wear my patience quite thin is for blatant lying, especially on nonsense.

So, here is what I am going to do throughout his Presidency and I encourage others to do the same until shown otherwise. I am not going to believe a word Donald Trump, Kellyanne Conway or Sean Spicer say. A betting person would say the same, based on their track record. They have to earn any trust I will give them. They have failed to do so and deserve this treatment. The ball is in their court.

 

Information highway has many roadblocks and exits

We have so much information literally at our fingertips. Search mechanisms can yield answers to so many questions. It is a virtual information highway. Yet, two major problems exist that provide roadblocks or exits to the information highway.

First, answers are often not that simple and depend on the questions being asked. Many problems are complex and need context, as the answer afforded by the results of searches you might click on, can steer you in the wrong direction. Any time you look for a medical solution, you must be careful not to over-diagnose symptoms. If you have ever had children, the croup is one scary looking illness. Yet, it is not as bad as it looks, and a few simple solutions can remedy the problem.

Second, all answers and sources do not have the same level of veracity. Unfortunately, there are information sources whose modus operandi is to mislead. There are groups of entrepreneurs who will craft official looking websites whose main intent is to obfuscate the truth or get a candidate elected. Then, there are portrayed media sources who, on their best day, offer a spin doctored version of the news or mask editorial opinion as news. On their worst day, they can misinform as well as anyone.

Unfortunately, the duty falls on the reader, watcher or searcher, to ascertain the veracity of the information and its source. The groups who make a living at bending the truth, do it very well, so it is hard to know you are being duped or not told the whole story. Now, we have candidates and a President-elect who tell you to doubt the media, saying they are biased. This is often done to mask that the media actually may be on to something.

The main stream media has a key bias and that is toward conflict. Conflict sells. I find they often give too much credibility to an argument and portray it as 50/50 with side-by-side arguments. Climate change deniers have been given too great a voice these days, as the scientists who know the issues have agreed it is a problem and is man-influenced. Yet, you can find websites that will tell you it is a hoax and have even influenced our President-elect.

The main stream media also has a bias toward entertainment and can be conflicted with funding sources for commercials or their owners. As a result, issues may not be discussed at all or covered in a shallow form. While our President-elect claims the media was against him, from my vantage point, they enabled his success by covering his events and controversial statements and not his business history and plans.

So, we must be diligent and dutiful to confirm sources. We must read and listen with curiosity, but remain skeptical of sources. We must ask questions – why, what, when, how and how much or long? If you do a search, look at the source. If you read routed information on Facebook, again look at the source of the underlying document. An overly biased person may also be a lightning rod that the information being routed lacks veracity. And, watch reputable news sources and not politically biased ones.

Democracy demands an informed electorate. We just elected a President who lied about 3/4 of the time on the campaign trail and says he will represent people he has taken advantage of throughout his business career. It boggles the mind that this man was not vetted more. And, as a President, we will need to hold him accountable. We must recognize the roadblocks and exits to seeking the truth. It won’t be easy.