Survey Says ... We Don’t Agree. About Anything. 


Some of the "news" I was exposed to before 9 a.m. today:

An "urgent alert" post on that read, "I love my penis."

A tweet that led me to a video link showing President Trump praising Kim Jong-un as one the "great leaders" of the world, and saying that he "loves his people." (These would be the people he imprisons and murders, keeps impoverished, and denies basic human rights to, I suppose.)

A story in the print-version of The Commercial Appeal about the "grandma" who put her kids in a dog kennel in her car.

A link on Facebook to a story about the facilities in Texas where the separated children of (brown) asylum seekers are being kept in cages until they can be sent off to foster homes. America!

A CNN video of Dennis Rodman in Singapore wearing a MAGA hat and pitching a crypto-currency called PotCoin.

A Commercial Appeal email that sent me to a video of state Representive Reginald Tate talking to a Republican on a "hot mic" and saying his fellow Democrats were "full of shit."

An NPR story about U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions' latest ruling, one that categorically denies asylum to any (brown) woman who claims to be a victim of domestic violence.

Drake Hall playing "Miss You" by the Rolling Stones.

I also made two moves in Words With Friends on my iPhone.

I don't think I'm particularly atypical. We are bombarded with "news content" from multiple sources these days. It seems unimaginable that just a decade ago, most of us woke up, made coffee, read the paper, and went to work, assuming we were reasonably well-informed.

Information now comes at us nonstop, a pupu platter of news, opinion, tragedy, nonsense, pathos, and propaganda. None of us get the same serving. All of us filter our information stream differently, picking and choosing what catches our fancy.

Is it any wonder we can't agree about anything?

A survey conducted last week by the the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the American Press Institute found, unsurprisingly, that most Americans are unsatisfied with the current state of journalism and the news. Perhaps, surprisingly, three out of four journalists who were surveyed agreed with them. News creators and news consumers both want the news to be better, but for different reasons.

Journalists are feeling beleagured and threatened by the continued down-sizing of the newspaper industry, the dumbing down and politicizing of television news, and by the constant attacks on the media from the president, who denigrates any reporting he doesn't like as "fake news." The survey found that most journalists believe the public's level of trust in news media has decreased in the past year. Forty-four percent of news consumers said it had.

Interestingly, the survey found that the public wants what most journalists say they want to deliver — stories that are factual and offer context and analysis — but 42 percent of those consumers who were surveyed said journalists too often strayed into non-objective commentary.

Here's where it gets sticky. When newspapers ruled the Earth, readers pretty much knew what was news reporting and what was opinion. Newspapers had (and still have, for the most part) a clearly delineated "op-ed" section, where pundits unleash points of view about various subjects. It was easy to differentiate news reporting from opinion.

Now, not so much. Is that clip of Dennis Rodman news? Entertainment? A reality show gone rogue? Hell if I know. When that video of Trump and Kim gets posted to Facebook with a snarky comment from a friend, the video itself is ostensibly news, but the comment is opinion. The lines are blurred and getting blurrier. Most of the news we get via social media comes with an opinion attached. Too often, we react to the opinion rather than to the news itself.

Where do we go from here? I don't know. But it's worrisome that in a time when accurate, serious reporting has never been more important, most Americans can't even agree on what it is.

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