We have to read and listen with critical, knowledgeable, and wise eyes. Here are some of my observations.
1. What they don’t say is just as important as what they do say. A quick perusal of various sites will show you which articles certain outlets include and which they ignore. That observation tells you something important right there. Also, if there’s an important story going on, read it from a few different sources. You’ll notice what one includes that another excluded. You’re already on a beneficial learning curve.
2. Beware for manipulative, emotional words to sway you. Adjectives like irresponsible, deplorable, hypocritical, disastrous, and the like are rarely words of journalistic reporting but instead are editorial terms because they want you to believe a certain perspective, not just hear the news.
3. Listen carefully for whom they choose to interview and what soundbite they want you to hear. Don’t think for a minute that such selections are random.
4. Pay attention to what picture they want you to see—smiling or angry, complementary or deprecatory. These items are all carefully selected with calculation. Be a smart consumer of news.
5. They will interview one person to manipulate you into thinking that’s a common view. Really it’s just their view. Or just one view. When they choose to air an interview with a man-on-the-street, or a particular Senator, etc., you will hear the perspective not necessarily of the majority, but rather more like the perspective of the news agency or their puppeteer.
6. Be careful when they make predictions (“So-and-so tells us what could happen if blah is done.”) Yeah, don’t believe it. They might as well be calling the final score of the Superbowl. Guesswork isn’t news.
7. Unfortunately, sometimes the news outlets or Internet sights are guilty of outright lying, saying things that aren’t true. You will only recognize it as you learn the schemes of the various outlets, or are widely enough read to know a lie when you hear one.
8. Selective editing to distort what a person says or writes to say something different. You notice how short soundbites can be. One possible reason is they want to cut the second half of the sentence that changes the meaning of the first half if that’s all you hear.
9. Be alert about headlines. Some are deliberately designed as “click bait” and either have nothing to do with the article or are specifically written to mislead so as to draw you in. Just because it’s a headline doesn’t mean it’s believable or even that that’s what the article is about.
Be so careful. These tricks of the trade are common across the media horizon. If we wish to be as innocent as doves but shrewd as serpents, we need to be smart listeners.