Wednesday, 16 November 2016

How to treat news from the media.

When you listen to or read the news from the media, how do you treat it? What’s your response? Do you swallow is hook, line and sinker? Or do you believe it halfheartedly? Well, it’s absolutely safer to assume their chances of happening is just 50/50. Expect the worst case scenario. Expect surprises. That factor will always remain.

True, there are times when the news is 100% correct. But that’s not going to happen always. And you have to prepare yourself for such times.

Situations have come when the media circulated information that is totally false. The story never occurred anywhere and was carried with such air of certainty that will leave you with no chance to doubt. In some other times it’s just half-truth. It really happened somehow, somewhere, but not exactly as it was presented. In fact, at times you as an eye witness won’t recognise the same story you’ve once known. And you begin to ask yourself, why? Would the news agencies really betray the trust their audiences have on them by deliberately circulating false information?

The point to bear in mind is that the media thrive on rumours. A rumour is a “tall tale of explanations of events circulating from person to person and pertaining to an object, event, or issue in public concern.” According to Wikipedia, ‘rumour involves some statements whose veracity is not quickly or ever confirmed’ and is ‘often discussed with regards to misinformation and disinformation’. Misinformation is seen as simply false information which is passed to the masses while the latter is more of deliberately created false information, especially those given by the government to the media.

A lie can travel halfway around te world while the truth is putting on its shoes.

For an example, close to a decade ago, I listened to a radio station from Abia state, Nigeria, cast news. In the report, a man and his three kids had been reportedly drowned in their village river when they went to fetch water. And according to the news, the sad incident happened just few days to the date the news was cast (I think the news was cast in 2007/08). This incident, they continued, happened in a town, Nanka, in a neighbouring state, Anambra.

When I heard the news, I reacted like many people would: shocked to the marrow and filled with sorrow. I couldn’t just help but pity the poor family and prayed such calamity never come my way. But then, I had the privilege to verify the authenticity of the report. Well, initially though, I wasn’t intended on proving how true or false, I was only trying to know if someone around would know the family such evil befell.

Nanka is a moderately sized village-esq community. The vibration of such an incident would’ve been felt for days, non-stop. I am from Nanka. At the time of this news, I was at Nanka too. I relayed the story to my mum who was not far away from where I sat with the radio by my side and she was, as expected, shocked- the kind triggered by surprise. She had gone to the market earlier that day, and if such happened, that would’ve been the talk of the town. The community was peaceful and everything moved smoothly too.

Why was she then surprised? Because she knew the story well. And she knew it happened more than twenty (20) solid years prior to the date it was cast.  So, even though the event happened, but the family had overcome the pains and sorrow it brought two decades prior. You would wonder why that radio station would go on to cast such news without verification: not under this day in history, but as current news. That will remain less of a mystery if you understand how these agencies work.

Clearly, not all cases are like the story above. Some are worse off while others are less grievous. But in the end, they affect your mood, your psychology and even your response and perception towards a fellow human being, a situation, or group of people. You won’t know how thousands of people who heard the same story who couldn’t verify would be filled with sympathy and sorrow. And you trust they believed it as true.

No need to expand on the government-owned news media which does not seem to see any evil done by the government. After all who wants to be shown the exit door? The masses may suffer to death; they can be killed by the police or soldiers. But as long as the culprit is the government, the news is never heard beyond the scene it occurred. Maybe CNN (America), BBC (Britain) and NTA (Nigeria) will serve as clear examples.

The bottom line is that the news we read or listen to can be greatly altered by several factors, the government being the chief culprit. Aside from the government and few other ‘bosses’ whose interests are protected by the media outlet, there is also another reason why the media enjoy rumours.

The reason is: profit. The major reason anybody is in business is to make profit. Humans run businesses, but profit keeps the business running. And how would a media outlet, let’s take an online news blog for an example, succeed if it has to verify all the facts of the news before it’s published online? Remember the staff has to be paid. Infrastructures have to be bought, installed and maintained. The more your audience, the more your profit is likely to become.

News has time relevance attached to it. If you want to verify all the facts before you publish, the news may appear stale to the audience because it is either that another news media had done that before you, or the time the news is relevant has gone. So, as soon as a spark of information rises, every news media catches the skeleton, pads it with flesh and muscles and sell.  And they know, profit is the driving force. They want to be the first to publish the news and grow their audience.

So aside from deliberately giving the audience false information for any reason, perhaps political, false rumours, especially on trending stories occur because the outfit needs to remain in business.

So having known this, how would you treat the news you get daily? Receive the information, it may be true. Do not act on the information, it may be false. The rumour may be targeted to get the audience respond in a particular way. It may be sponsored. It may not be. The truth is that most of the information out there has an element of truth. The problem most times is that it is either published at the wrong time, like in the story above or has some added stories which do not really happen.

Now you have been armed with this information, let your response to the news you hear or read change from today. As long as you are not present at the event to witness for yourself, assume it really didn’t happen. The press is made of humans. Humans are created good, but don’t forget that humans are known to lie too.  So while with open heart you receive, don’t forget to assume the other way too. It may simply just be a lie.
Some of us have heard this kind of experience with news blogs, sites and several media outlets. Share your opinion and if this post is helpful, share to your friends.


  1. Correct, if we critically look at most informations that we get from these media. One can obviously identify were there is a missing link and that which is actually true.

  2. True @WEmeto Daniel. When the audience know that many information they receive has a missing link, they will respond differently to them.