Nations Agenda™ - Constructive Political Thought
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Millennials, Seize the Future or Lose It All

Making News Credible - The Future Project on Nations Agenda

"The most trusted man in the country," for the middle of last century, was a news anchor, Walter Cronkite of CBS News. His honesty and impartiality was not suspect.

Things have changed. In a recent poll, Republican confidence in the news media was at 14%, very close to the Congressional approval rating of 13%, found in a Gallup poll in March, 2016. During the 2016 election, fake news sites outperformed real news sites.

Part of the acknowledged problem is that in this highly polarized society, people are hungry for any story that supports their bias. They surround themselves with information that supports what they want to believe, and disregard the rest.

Part of the problem is that some news outlets pander to political parties, and most outlets focus on stories that are sensationalism, with little depth. Screams of media bias don't fall on deaf ears, but 70% of reporters self-identify as not aligned with any political party or in the conservative/liberal dichotomy.

Add to that the very strong bias in rural areas against urban areas and the elite they feel want to rule over them and tell them what to think. (I cover this in an unbiased analysis of the 2016 Presidential election.)

The most valued goal (I think) of unbiased reporters is to create unbiased reports. Yet even a reporter's smile can bias election results, and only 6% of reporters self-identify as Republican.

News sources have proliferated with the advent of the Internet and social media. All it takes to be a reporter, analyst, or anchor, is a computer and Internet connection. But is this reliable news? Advertising revenue is the driving motivation behind many of these sites, and nothing else. If they can create good "click-bait," then they get views and make money, even if it is old news, highly biased news, or fake news.

What can be done to help people discriminate between stories, when they want to? I presented this question and some ideas to a working group on Facebook about finding a New Way Forward, without turning search and social media into censures. This is what we came up with:

First, this should come from within the news media industry, with caution not to eliminate entrepreneurs who want to become specialized news sites. They should create a free, non-governmental, rating agency to which each company or site becomes a signatory, and they should adhere to rating their news stories by standards that help search, social media companies, and consumers, identify news by its rating.

The ratings:

Each news source would have to, through being a signatory, certify that they abide by these standards, and if the industry finds they are not, through public input and spot checks, their rating would be reduced to D for at least 6 months. Their ability to get advertising revenue will drop to near zero.

I don't think we ever want to get to the point of eliminating those brave entrepreneurs who decide to create an Internet or social media news site. But they should have to play by the same rules. No rating, no credibility.

Would this cause censorship? An example: If the KKK created a news site of KKK news, that ran stories of the leader's speeches, and they were a signatory, then the story could be found in search or social media. Of course they would also have an H rating for hate, which would keep them out.

People still have freedom of speech, but people in public forums generally don't want to be subjected to fake news, hate speech, etc. Those who want to propagate hate have the option of creating their own social media site - they are very inexpensive to set up.

Technical: Ratings would be in a meta-tag in news article headings, videos, and identified in social media news pages. A banner would be placed in the header of search and social media posts that identify the news item by rating, for reader convenience.