Book Plunge: Veils of Distortion

What do I think of John Zada’s book published by Terra Incognita? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

John Zada is a journalist writing about how media distorts the news for all of us. Right now, my conservative readers are thinking, “Yep. We know we can’t trust the media. You tell them.” My liberal friends are probably thinking, “This is just going to be a cry of celebration for Trump and Fox News.”

Both of them are wrong.

There are statements in here both sides will not be happy with, which means it’s great reading for both sides. Instead, it’s a general warning about how the media functions today. In many ways, the media does control the culture and what they say does stick. This book is also recently published which means you can find news about Trump and about the Coronavirus.

Let’s start with the latter as an example of how news is shaped. Consider that the virus is called a “deadly virus.” Left out is that normally 98% of people who get the virus survive just fine. So why report it this way? Because deadly is a way that can make news. Also, we regularly report only the exceptional negative news. For a counterexample, you won’t turn on the news and hear “Millions of Americans get flu vaccine and nothing bad happens.” If however, some people die from it, which happens every year, that will make the news.

Part of the problem also is like most things journalists report on, they are not experts on the subject. Someone could be a journalist who reports on issues of national security all his life. However, he still will not have a job where he works directly in national security and so that will always be a blind spot for him.

News outlets also try to get news out there as fast as possible which means that they don’t have the time to fact check. In the past, they had to compete against only other journalists and news stations. Now who do they have to compete against? Everyone with a smartphone. How many of our news stories now are based on captured smartphone video?

Thus, the media rushes right out the gate without all the information and can often make snap judgments. Fact-checkers don’t always have the time to do proper fact-checking and can be just as unreliable as anyone else is. The best way for us to handle topics is to try to do our own fact-checking.

Sometimes, as a sad commentary, the media practically hopes for a disaster to take place. Zada even reports of a time where there was a standoff somewhere and someone in the newsroom actually said, “I wish some fighting would break out between these two so that we could have something to report.” After all, the same news doesn’t sell. If you have a story where a plane crashes, that will make the news. You will never turn on the news and hear, “Hundreds of planes flew across America today without a single crash.”

We must remember the media is driven by one thing ultimately. Money. They want ratings and that can lead to sloppiness as they try to get the best stuff out there as quickly as they can. The news will stay in the air for a bit and then when it no longer brings in the ratings, the media will go on to another story.

Also, whatever you think of Trump, he knows how to play the media well, and that is part of the reason he won in 2016. He knew what to do to get the media reporting on him which meant free coverage. The media had a love/hate relationship with him. They hated him politically, but they loved that he was a ratings grab which means in an ironic sense, they helped him become president with all the coverage.

What can we do?

For one thing, we need to inform ourselves. Watch the news from both sides and watch agencies that watch the media as well. You could even try investing in slow journalism. I have heard that Dan Bongino, for example, tries to wait 72 hours before taking a side on an issue that breaks out. Since he has a national radio show now, I don’t know if that can be done as easily, but whether you like him or not, I think that’s an admirable stance.

In my own field, I know that often a discovery is made in archaeology and Christians and atheists both rush out to share it thinking it will either confirm or disprove the Bible. I always say the same thing to them. Wait. Let the scholars look at the issue. Many people like to rush their stories to the media in this area instead of going through the scholarly review part. Always be wary of those.

Try also to read a story or hear it from the other perspective. If the situation was reversed, what would that mean? What data is being left out? We can hear how many people die from Coronavirus. How many people don’t?

I urge liberals and conservatives both to read this book.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

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