History in the Making
The purpose of the “History in the Making” assignment is to connect the past with issues in the world today and keep you updated on current events. In order to obtain useful information from a news story you must learn to read them critically.
You must recognize both the point of view the story embodies and its attempt to influence your thinking and beliefs. When you read an article critically you will recognize bias and one-sided viewpoints. This will allow you to learn to find viewpoints that are dismissed or ignored in the article.
Some myths that obscure the logic of the news media:
- Most news stories are produced through independent investigative journalism
- News writers simply report facts in their stories and do not come to conclusions about them
- Fact & opinion are clearly separated in constructing the news
- There is an objective reality (the actual “news”) that is simply ‘reported’ or described by the news media of the world (our news media writers reporting on this objectivity; the media of foreign enemies systematically slanting and distorting it)
- What is unusual (novel, odd, bizarre) is news; what is usual is not
**There are multiple points of view from which any set of events can be viewed and interpreted. Openness to a range of insights from multiple points of view and willingness to question one’s own point of view are crucial to “objectivity”**
To achieve objectivity, we need to:
- Identify the point of view from which a given news story or historical account is constructed
- Identify the audience it is written for
- Recognize what points of view it is negating or ignoring
- Distinguish the raw facts behind the story from the interpretation and spin being put on those facts
When we do these things, we are not as easily manipulated. We are able to exercise greater independence of judgment. We get a greater sense of what elements of the story or account are most or least credible.
Forms of Objectivity
The Objectivity of Intellectual Humility
- Intellectual Humility is “knowledge of our ignorance”
- A critical consumer of the news knows that what is presented as fact may not be fact; it may be propaganda, misinformation, distortion, or half-truth
- Take in information in a tentative fashion; it is better to “suspend” belief
The Objectivity of Fair-Minded, Multi-dimensional Thinking
- This form goes beyond the intellectual humility
- Connected to positive insight into the complexity and many sides of most world issues and conflicts
- Reject party lines, socio-centric thinking, and intellectual conformity
- Results from studying a range of views with the overriding motivation to defend a predetermined choice
- Usually apologists for powerful interests
- Present positions consistent with a picture of the world shared by most of their readers/viewers
Steps in Becoming a Critical Consumer of the “News”
- Understand the basic agenda of “news story construction” – Always keep in mind that the purpose of mainstream news is to sell stories for a profit to particular audiences. It is not to educate!!!
- What the audience would consider a “story”
- What about the story would be considered most AND least relevant to the audience
- How to construct “leads” or “headlines” for a story
- How much space or time to give a particular story
- How to relate the story to other stories and to the audience’s picture of themselves and their world
- How to tell a story so it sounds professional
- Use one’s knowledge of the logic of “news story construction,” first, to “deconstruct” stories in the news and then to “reconstruct” them imaginatively with alternative biases and slants.
- You must learn how to read between the lines and how to recast stories as told into alternative stories as they might have been told from other points of view
- Learn how to redefine issues, access alternative sources (both within and outside the mainstream), put events into a historical perspective, notice and assess assumptions and implications
- Systematic questioning and assessment are crucial to the critical processing of media messages
- Learn how to identify low-credibility stories by noticing vested interests or passion associated with content
- Stories are least credible when the interests of the producer or receiver of a story are involved or when the passions of a mass audience are involved
To complete this History in the Making assignment:
Pick a current events story from one of the news websites below.
Find two dissenting websites that cover the same story.
Cite all three sources. Be sure to include the name of the website, title of the story, author of the story, and the date the story was published.
Answer the following questions in paragraph form to analyze all three viewpoints of the same story:
Who is the intended audience?
What point of view is being presented?
What point(s) of view is (are) being dismissed or played down?
How were you able to gain access to the point of view being negated (from those who most intelligently understand it)?
What information is “buried” in the article and why?
The following list of links can be used for the “History in the Making” assignment:
The following links should help in completing this assignment: