Hasn’t It Always Been ‘Reader Beware?’

img_1586The recent release of a study by Stanford University researchers on the understanding that young readers might have about the kinds of sources of information they see online seems troubling in light of the recent wake of “fake news” during the U.S. presidential election season. It shouldn’t. Same story, different format, both for the “fake news” and for the young readers.

Media watchers have been decrying the poor comprehension of news since mass media began, hence the many concerns expressed by the founding framers of the Declaration of Independence, the Federation, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Public Notice was one way for the public to be aware of what government was doing — straight up and without interpretation, if the intention of the law was followed. It separated fact from “news” so that we could interpret facts to gather our own news from it.

Yes, there are actual facts to be gathered when preparing the news reports of the day.  As we seem to learn afresh almost by the moment now, news has many versions.The major news organizations, like the Washington Post, have reported the most recent fake news episode and reflections with the equanimity of professionals.

If Mark Zuckerberg had remained in school a bit longer he might have come across some of the astounding live experiments that many governments did during the early part of the previous century during world wars with effective covert propaganda in news reports. It was not rocket science, but one working theory was even referred to as a bullet.

Mass media has no or very little effect?  Don’t tell the advertisers! They are paying big bucks because they believe differently. Just a note, Public Notice is placed in advertising boxes for a reason, as well.

As for elections and wars, and facts and news, and public opinion…check again in the history reports. One need not even flip back through many pages, screens or views to see evidence of mass media effects.

Or just go to the movies. Let Orson Wells demonstrate how it works in Citizen Kane. There are dozens of movies that make the point.

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