By Sam Prince @phiSammaJamma
Start Here (I discuss the importance of cognitive dissonance. Boring to you? Not interested? FEEL FREE TO SCROLL DOWN! But I do suggest you at least skim it):
I was in class orientation the other day, and my professor addressed news consumption. Often times we consume news, but fail to question biases and motive. Those who do see biases typically ascribe to a particular point of view, accepting dogmatic principles. We oft lack the “cognitive dissonance” Leon Festinger theorized in the late-1950s.
“Cognitive dissonance refers to a situation involving conflicting attitudes, beliefs or behaviors. This produces a feeling of discomfort leading to an alteration in one of the attitudes, beliefs or behaviors to reduce the discomfort and restore balance etc” Simple Psychology
That’s a confusing technical definition but in layman terms: Cognitive Dissonance is when one of your held beliefs is challenged by an alternative opinion or idea, and that challenge makes you question your own beliefs. The questioning, or what some psychologist call a “feeling of discomfort” is what Festinger referred to as cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance is a NECESSITY.
We must force ourselves to experience “discomfort” when consuming news and information. This is beyond quintessential. It is in questioning not only the information we consume, but also our beliefs and our understanding of values that we are perfect.
I know it is cliché but truly, it is in our understanding of our imperfections that we become perfect.
START HERE (This is where I tell you what to watch for in any media you consume. It sucks you found COGNITIVE DISSONANCE boring, but it isn’t too late…you can still scroll up):
Not every news source is dedicated to unbiased and legitimate reporting. Many fail to create a dividing line separating opinion from news. Often you’ll end up reading (or listening and watching) reports that appear to be news, yet are opinion.
This is happening more often as people are getting more of their news from social media, instead of from legitimate sources like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. There’s a lot of danger in this, because reporting shapes public opinion. Media outlets have one shot to get a story right (even if they put a retraction through their medium), and often times they will report them incorrectly. This is a result of the 24 hour news cycle.
As a student of journalism, I am going to help you not fall into this trap.
Journalism (and reporting) originates from these two ideas:
The Right of People to know
A Free and Open marketplace of Ideas
There are six elements of journalism (anybody you read should be practicing all of these):
Obligation to the truth
First Loyalty is to its CITIZENS
Independent monitor of power
Practice Verification in their news
Maintaining their independence from those they cover
Forum for public criticism and compromise
Sources are key to journalism. There’s a process of vetting news stories, and their reliability based on their sources:
At my College we create an acronym from the phrase I’M VAIN.
Independent- Is the source independent from the story, or do they have a stake on either side?
John the construction worker is NOT an independent source in the Construction Worker Union vs. New York case. He has a stake.
Multiple- Does the article state multiple sources, or do they just use one?
Good articles will use multiple sources
Verify- Is the source adding any factual information that will verify the something in the article?
The representative from the Census said that more than one in five children lived in poverty in the US in 2010 (SIDE NOTE: This is a true stat from the Census. Click here)
Authoritative- Does the source have any public authority?
An elected official is considered an authoritative source.
Informed- Is the source informed on the situation?
John the construction worker is an informed source in the Construction Worker Union vs. New York case, because he has stake. Still an authoritative, verified, and independent source will typically outrank an informed source in reliability.
Named-Is the source named?
Named sources always outrank unnamed ones. John the construction worker outranks “the construction worker at yesterday’s protest.” This is true in every case except when the person commenting is an unnamed representative from an authoritative source.
I leave you with a quote from the famed clan of Wu-Tang, “Protect Ya Neck.” And protecting your neck, mind, and thoughts from those who seek to influence you for their own gain, is exactly what you must be vigilant about.
I’ll be doing more of these, so stay tuned!