Category Archives: Assignment 10

What is Real Versus What They Want Us to See: How to be a Correctly Informed Global Citizen

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How do we know if what the media is telling us is true? And if we cannot trust major news coverage for information, where should we find our sources? I think these are important questions for all citizens, especially in America. We all have unrealistic, postmodern ideas of how to get information, whether it be our obsession with reality TV stars, or news happening around the world. This critic, the historian Daniel Boorstin, details American’s unrealistic expectations of receiving information: “When we pick up our newspaper at breakfast, we expect–we even demand–that it bring us momentous events since the night before. We turn on the car radio as we drive to work and expect “news” to have occurred since the morning newspaper went to press…” (Witt 119). Because of consumer’s demands, the media must supply. It is important that we all know how to get credible information, and how to see past the media’s manipulation of getting consumers to want more and more.

To find any credible sources requires critical thinking and research. You may watch Fox News, a popular news station which is well-known to have a conservative view. Below is a link to several YouTube videos which shows the slant they are putting on the information they are giving to the public:

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLA3BD2524FE99BD4D

How is this news station so popular if its slant on news is so obvious? Well, there has been one study that concludes that consumers would rather “…read (watch) news that is consistent with their tastes or prior beliefs rather than the truth… [and that] media bias may increase when there are more conscientious consumers…” (Xiang and Sarvary 611). And another study that shows “We find that readers have an economically significant preference for like-minded news. Firms respond strongly to consumer preferences…By contrast, the identity of a newspaper’s owner explains far less of the variation in slant” (Gentzkow and Shapiro 35). I find that these conclusions are very similar to Polman’s, that aid organizations go to crisis areas where their donors want, since it is their money they are using and want to continue to get (Polman).

How do we seek truthful information if what we want is supplied to us easily? Part of it is realizing our own flaws in catering to information that coincides with our views, and thinking critically about how we can help being more aware with the actual truth. The next is making sure we do research. Of course, the first kind of research you want to look for is scholarly, whether it is a scholarly criticism on the media in general, a certain news station, or a specific situation happening globally. There is a reason why students are encouraged to use scholarly sources, and they need to be utilized more by the public rather than within educational systems.

A second step to seeking credible and truthful sources is looking for local opinions for wherever this news is occurring. For instance, Polman talks about how local people from Sierra Leone are kept away from those who are in charge of humanitarian aid and only used as translators and drivers, when it is important to have the opinions of those who are primarily affected by the actions in their area (Polman). When I was doing research on TOMS shoes there were a lot of praises and criticisms of them, but the most helpful information I found came from a blog of a woman who lived in Haiti and criticized by using local examples (this is the link: http://www.mangine.org/2012/02/one-for-one.html). Look up a background on people who write books and articles you read, and videos you watch. All of these can lead us a step closer the the truth.

The most important way to find the truth is through critical thinking. Even when reading scholarly papers or taking in the words of locals, you must come up with your own conclusions and really think about what is being said. It is important to realize your own bias when doing research and work towards neutrality in order for others to do the same. There may be many conflicting news stories floating out there for you to find, but it is important to look at the writer’s bias to see their take on the matter (for instance, an article about how abortion is wrong written by a Christian). Finding the truth is not as easy as taking in what the media gives us, but as informed citizens who look for the long-term we must find what is truthful.

 

Works Cited:

Gentzkow, Matthew, and Jesse M. Shaprio. “What Drives Media Slant? Evidence from U.S. Daily Newspapers.” JSTOR. The Econometric Society, Jan. 2010. Web. 25 June 2013.

Polman, Linda. War Games. London: Penguin, 2010. Print.

Witt, Jon. The Big Picture: A Sociology Primer. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2007. Print.

Xiang, Yi, and Miklos Sarvary. “News Consumption and Media Bias.” JSTOR. INFORMS, Sept.-Oct. 2007. Web. 25 June 2013.

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A10 A question of vetting Due June 27th

A question of vetting

Certainly one of the responsibilities of a humanitarian/global citizen is to know the world in as much detail as is humanly possible.  In a sense, all of us as global citizens are doing basic sociological research about the world constantly by using existing sources to help us gather data about global issues.  We then piece that information together with our own logic and meaning frameworks (certainly guided by our cultural learning) to form a hopefully coherent understanding the the world.  This is not easy, simple, or quick and, as you have learned as an Elon student and a student on this class, this understanding is clearly more of a journey than a destination.  Those of us who feel a duty to continue to learn more about the world are always growing, changing, expanding and deepening our views as we become ever more aware of the complexities of the social world in which we live.

So, from what sources do we learn about the world?  How do we examine the credibility of our sources?  In this course you have been asked to read several books and many articles/book chapters.  How do you know that Polman tells us the truth or that Ken Cain is to be believed in what he writes?  How do we know if the MSF web site is really accurate in what it tells us about their efforts?

In this post I am asking you you talk about the basic and essential task of vetting your sources of information, questioning the methodology with which the information that is presented was gathered, and the overall reliability and validity of the information you are reading/hearing.

How should a responsible global citizen/humanitarian vet information?  How do you vet your sources (including everything you hear from me!)?  Give some examples where you have perhaps vetted some of the material you encountered in this course.

Some questions that you might consider include:

  • Which news sources seem to be the most biased?  the least biased?
  • What are some web sites that seem particularly trustworthy?  particularly untrustworthy?
  • Where should a responsible global citizen go to get information about world issues?
  • How do you personally navigate the complex and often contradicting information you hear about world issues?

 

Rubric:

  • Due by 10:00pm EST June 27th.
  • Late posts will be downgraded at least one letter grade.
  • Comments to at least two colleague’s posts by  June 28th by 10:00PM EST.
  • At least three citations: at least one from text and/or other assigned reading, and at least two from outside academic sources.  Note:  you are to read/watch/listen to all of the material in the hyperlinks in the parent post above; your contact with the material should be apparent in your post.
  • List references at the bottom of the page (MLA format).
  • At least one photo and/or video link.
  • Minimum 0f 500 words (excluding references).
  • Grade will be based on quality and quantity of response to the post prompt including adherence to the above benchmarks.
  • Keep in mind that you are writing for a broad audience that is educated and interested in this topic; infuse your post with the sociology you are learning/have learned in a non-jargonistic manner

Please check Assignments/Assignment 10 before you Publish.

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