“Where’s the chalk?” I asked Susan McCormack. She’s a Library Media Specialist at Blue Mountain Middle School in Cortlandt Manor who also teaches Digital Literacy. I was in her classroom standing awestruck at a very smart board (pictured here), the stuff of science fiction when I was in school. I was joking about the chalk (there’s also a blackboard in the room), but I also was giddy as a kiddie having at my fingertips the same touchscreen technology on a supersize video screen – like the ones they use on TV news programs — as I have on my decidedly more compact smart phone or tablet.
Through Cortlandt Manor parent Lindsey Marcus, Enrichment Chair for the school, whose son Brody is in the class, I was invited to talk with Susan McCormack’s students about such journalism topics as “the difference between real and fake news.”
The students were naturally curious about misinformation. I noted that social media can be a toxic breeding ground of false flags. Some people get their kicks intentionally posting untrue information (which is “disinformation”), while others don’t care to fact check what they perfunctorily peruse and then reflexively pass along the fake news to others (“misinformation”).
There are still other well-meaning folk who might be prone to misinterpret perfectly accurate information, and pass along their confusion to others. We all can read the exact same thing and walk away with very different conclusions, based on our individual, inherent prejudices.
That brings me to bias. Along with the meaning of life, the burning question of our time is whether the news is biased. The students asked what I thought. I offered this “parable,” if you will.
You’re at a baseball game and the opposing team’s player steals second. You see he’s tagged out, but the ump misses the call, declaring him safe. Are you going to yell and boo at Blue? Sure you are.
Next inning, exact same thing happens – this time your team’s player steals second and you see he is tagged out, but the ump motions that he’s safe. Are you going to complain? LOL!
So who’s biased — you or the ump?
Is the news biased? It’s debatable, depending on the source. Not debatable is that how each of us processes news is biased. We’re only human.
Bruce Apar is Editorial Director + Associate Publisher of River Journal North