News Versus Spin

Yesterday, I stumbled across twelve minutes of video from the Obama-Clinton event in Unity, New Hampshire.

After watching all of it, I concluded that the two campaign teams had designed a tightly scripted event in order for Clinton to provide as much support to Obama as possible. I paid particular attention to the themes evoked by each during their speeches, deciding that their speeches were mostly about supporting each others’ reputations and expressing moderate policy positions to appeal to undecided voters.

Then I watched “Anderson Cooper 360” on CNN last time, something I rarely do. There, I learned the real story. “Do Hillary and Barack really like each other?” “What does their body language tell us about them?” “Where is Bill?” Ironically, they showed only a minute or two of actual footage from the event! The network devoted the bulk of their presentation to “analysis” of the event, when they had a rich source of primary footage that they could have emphasized instead! We would never teach our students to use primary sources in such a manner.

Last week, the New York Times bemoaned the lack of success of Google News, which has apparently captured only 8% of the online news market. The leader is Yahoo!, whom I left last year when they buried actual news in favor of “infotainment” lead stories. I see Google News as the Craigslist of news sources. Their mission is to remove the middleman between consumers and the news, which I appreciate. Less spin, more reporting.

Edtech bloggers are excited about the potential for Wikipedia and Google News to change the way in which students become informed about the world. However, with the powerful marketing forces of major news networks and the capitulation of former innovators like Yahoo!, it is going to take a lot of effort to encourage good habits of news consumption among our students.

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