This post was originally written by Eric Burlingame on December of 2016. It was updated on April 13, 2017. This post is about 3,600 words, and takes about 21-25 minutes to read.
This is the second part in a two part Truth Value report examining news organizations for truthfulness. If you haven’t yet seen part one, you might be totally lost, so go check it out! You can view it here.
Survey of additional information sources
In the first part of this series we looked at the Truth Value of three broadcast news networks, but I wanted to look at the highs and lows of other popular “news” outlets as well, if only briefly. This news source assessment process is quite the rabbit hole that could be ventured down, and I could probably generate a large book’s worth of material on this subject alone. However, that is way outside of the scope of this report. That being said, I did want to provide you with some additional information for your viewing pleasure, and general upliftment. The goal here is to become a well informed person, but doing so with clarity regarding the value of your informational sources is vital. So, here you go!
Here’s exactly what we’ll be discovering: “During the course of the calendar year 2016, the following information providers’ collective Truth Value of the information that they published (in all forms such as online, in print and on broadcast media) was…”
breitbart.com = 20%. This hate focused, conspiracy laden, utterly biased lie factory should probably be avoided at all costs. Please let me be clear, these are not judgments on my part; rather, these are factual assessments of the Breitbart gig. At 20% Truth Value, you are only going to read lies, or else serious, usually purposeful distortions designed to mislead you. Don’t let any of the Breitbart mess enter into any of your orifices. I don’t really have much else to say about that. Update: The Truth Value for Breitbart published materials from January 1 - April 1, 2017 was 19%.
buzzfeed.com = 35%. Buzzfeed is a mash up of silliness and news, in much the same way many other news sources have coalesced entertainment and so-called news in the last few years. The concern I would exercise with this outlet and others like it, is that you take it one story at a time, eliminating the assumption that a positive experience with one story means that the site as a whole is providing truthful information with any regularity. This is exceptionally important given the rapid descent of the quality of their so-called news during 2017. For those of you not acquainted with Buzzfeed, and who are interested in truthfulness, just skip it as there isn’t much value to be found in a 35% Truth Value source, or lower. Update: The Truth Value for Buzzfeed published materials from January 1 - April 1, 2017 was 19.2%.
vox.com = 57.6%. During 2016, Vox had the highest consistent Truth Value of any other news source in the United States. MSNBC has overtaken Vox in Truth Value in 2017. (Note that I focused on US news sources because almost all current Inception Publishing patrons and readers are in the US, not because I have any kind of news source bias.) If you want both truthful, and context oriented reporting that tends to also go into more depth than you will likely see elsewhere, Vox should be your source, especially in written content (versus televised). They are routinely factual, practice responsible journalism, and give voice to a more thoughtful readership. Update: The Truth Value for Vox published materials from January 1 - April 1, 2017 was 55.2%.
Major broadcast networks:
ABC News = 35%. Update: The Truth Value for ABC News published materials from January 1 - April 1, 2017 was 30.1%.
NBC News = 37%. Update: The Truth Value for NBC News published materials from January 1 - April 1, 2017 was 29.6%.
CBS News = 35%. Update: The Truth Value for CBS News published materials from January 1 - April 1, 2017 was 29.3%.
I’ve decided to group the three major networks together for two reasons. First, they aren’t much different from each other. Second, we’ve already examined the mid 30% range as being fundamentally flawed through misunderstanding, bias distortions, or else a misinterpretation of facts so problematic, that the resulting stories lead to misinforming the public. Obviously, this year none of these news departments has been willing to reach much over 30%, which is quite astonishing, and renders their content nearly useless.
I admit that these numbers for the ‘big three’ broadcasters were somewhat of a surprise, as these organizations are all well funded, and still respected. However, I can say that after some recent observation of these news organizations, I did notice a treatment of subjects that was so ridiculously condensed and context free, that I finished each article or program with more questions than I had before having seen the report that was supposed to have informed me. Ultimately, there was little other than dissatisfaction and confusion in what I had seen, and a feeling of being tricked into watching advertisements, rather than the sense that I had been provided with critical information that helped me to become an informed citizen.
The New York Times = 36%. Update: The Truth Value for NYT published materials from January 1 - April 1, 2017 was 36%.
The Washington Post = 35%. Update: The Truth Value for Washington Post published materials from January 1 - April 1, 2017 was 31%.
USA Today = 35%. Update: The Truth Value for USA Today published materials from January 1 - April 1, 2017 was 29.5%.
The Los Angeles Times = 34.7%. Update: The Truth Value for LAT published materials from January 1 - April 1, 2017 was 29.2%.
Are you sensing a theme yet? Again, I won’t go into detailed explainers given that we have previously covered this truthless and virtually fact free 30% range. I do want to point out that part of the reason that these organizations can exist virtually free of basic factuality, is we consumers have grown accustomed to it, and tolerate it. We all vote with our eyeballs and dollars. When we regularly participate in counterproductive content sources, they get paid. Only when attention and money is focused into real reporting, and thoughtful, integrity based writing, will we get the information that is free of bias, spin, agendas, and ridiculous fallacies.
Time Magazine = 36.7%. Admittedly, Time magazine (as well as other publications) does have opinion and entertainment pieces in their pages, so the potential collective Truth Value will be inherently limited. However, (and this is true for all publications in this list that come in below 45%) you aren’t going to drastically raise the Truth Value even if you were to exclude the entertainment and opinion pieces, because the supposed fact based content is still untruthful, and limited in factualness.
For example, if you exclude all of Time magazine’s opinion and entertainment pieces for the calendar year 2016, the remaining content still only comes in at 39.9%, which is essentially a level not worth bothering with, let alone paying for. If you have a subscription to Time, you may want to consider transferring those funds elsewhere, unless you aren’t interested in the facts and the truth.
Update: The Truth Value for Time Magazine published materials from January 1 - April 1, 2017 was 35.1%.
Newsweek = 45.6%. Newsweek manages to almost get into the ballpark of consistently factual, but not quite. With Truth Value percentages above 45% there is often a significant quantity of facts, but with distinctive misinterpretation of those facts. In other words, the bulk of their stories mostly contain fact, but between the editing process, the lack of context, the sensationalization, and the subtle opinions or speculations, the ultimate value of their “news” is dropped well below the absolute minimum of 50% for fact based reporting. Newsweek may be giving it the old college try, but is missing the fact mark regularly.
Update: The Truth Value for Newsweek published materials from January 1 - April 1, 2017 was 30.6%.
There is one caveat to consider in the 45-50% range. Individual stories may well be entirely fact based. For example, the Robert Reich “opinion” piece from Newsweek’s website dated December 19, 2016, "ROBERT REICH: RALLIES AND LIES. THIS IS HOW TYRANNY BEGINS” is a 52% Truth Value, despite being an opinion piece. Reich delivers facts while also stating a distinctive set of his own observations and thoughts. This is quite possible to accomplish, but significant integrity is required. As is often the case, generalizations about a news source can be generally helpful, but specific stories are to be assessed for value.
Publicly funded sources:
NPR News = 45.6%. Much like the Newsweek assessment above, NPR (National Public Radio) News can contain quite useful information, but as a listener you must be aware of the distinctions between fact based news, and the often used content creation methods of speculation, assumption, opinion, and forecasting. In the battle for listeners, readers, and viewers, news media outlets often devote an enormous amount of space and time to interviews of supposed experts and story participants, and then ask those interviewees speculative questions about the future. This method of content creation has become rampant in all news media, but rarely has fundamental factualness to it.
Let me state that differently and clearly: If you are taking in a supposed news story, and someone is speculating on what might happen in the future, you are no longer in the realm of fact. You are, at that point, observing someone’s guess, at best. This is not news, it is only speculation, and speculation generally has about a 25% Truth Value. In other words, speculation isn’t valuable at all. It’s true that we all should learn some things from the past; but, taking another’s word about past events and imagining that they are definitely prelude to the future, is essentially allowing yourself to be brainwashed. (That last statement has a Truth Value of 88%.)
Update: The Truth Value for NPR News published materials from January 1 - April 1, 2017 was 31%.
PBS News = 51.8%. While much maligned by those that resist facts, the Public Broadcasting news department does deliver basic factualness, and should be conditionally trusted as a source for effective reporting. As seen elsewhere in this assessment, there is essential value in source checking, cross referencing, and providing context for viewers with little or no opinion. I know that might sound like basic journalistic ethics and practice, and that’s because it is. Journalism, ideally, is the journaling of events, not the exclusion of context that is replaced by the inclusion of bias.
Update: The Truth Value for PBS News published materials from January 1 - April 1, 2017 was 30.6%.
Mother Jones = 57%. Mother Jones is a non-profit news source so I have included it here, but it's one that isn’t funded in any way by American tax dollars. As with Vox above, this is a vital, real news source. Taking in Mother Jones content allows you to be fairly certain that the news is actual, verified, and well sourced. Just to remind you, any Truth Value rating over 50% is factual, over 55% is fact combined with appropriate context, at least in a limited form. At 56 or 57%, you are getting the facts, and some sense of how the specific content relates to a larger story or context. This is exactly what is useful in news delivery. Thus, I have to suggest Mother Jones as a potential source for your news intake.
Update: The Truth Value for Mother Jones published materials from January 1 - April 1, 2017 was 56%.
The Trump Effect
You’ve probably noticed the precipitous drop in Truth Value percentages in most news organizations during the first three months of 2017, in comparison to 2016. This has not occurred because news rooms were suddenly taken over by Russian disinformation agents, although that wouldn’t be a huge surprise if it had happened. There is one “reason” for this drop in truthfulness, with two parts. I am calling this recent truth and fact disappearance event, “The Trump Effect.”
Part one is simple. News organizations spend quite a bit of time and energy reporting what Trump and his administration representatives and officials do and say. The problem with this method of reporting is that the Trump administration, as a collective entity, generates so much inaccurate content and individual lies, simply reporting that content renders the news grossly inaccurate at best, and a tool for misinformation more broadly. Even the act of restating a lie or a contorted and misinterpreted fact as “news” results in the significant lowering of Truth Value. Stated differently, most news organizations are becoming tools of misdirection and misinformation for Trump and his gang of self-interested, ‘say anything to get what you want’ liars.
Let me be super clear again, I’m not being judgmental or hyperbolic. This habit of concocting misinformation and outright lies, perpetuated by many persons involved in the Trump White House, is exactly the energetic and informational quality of a complete disregard for other humans, thus a complete disregard for truthfulness. When you don’t think other humans are valuable, lying to them is no big deal.
So, when news reporters and journalists regurgitate what the Trump gang says or claims, and then treat those statements as though the content is legitimate news, especially when they know the content is untrue, they are aiding in a destructive propaganda effort.
Part two is also simple, but somewhat more involved. The news media is being abused, but they aren’t fully recognizing it. If you have ever had to deal with an abusive or narcissistic parent, spouse, boss, or friend, you know the dynamic. The abusive person (or organization in this case) that is functioning at an extremely low level of consciousness will always work to keep those around them off balance through distortions, and rapid reversals of attitude and opinion.
Up is down, right is wrong, logic is stupidity, hate is love – and then it all gets flipped upside down tomorrow. You never know where the abuser is coming from or what will set them off next, so the abuse victim is constantly in a reactive mode that is the very definition of stress. This victimization process is what the news media is in, and they are ignorantly trying to adjust to maintain some semblance of fact and clarity with traditional methods of inquiry and reporting. The result is a significant lowering in their truthfulness. This is not unlike the abused child that thinks that if he or she were to just behave differently, then the abusive parent would love and appreciate them.
If news organizations do not fully recognize that they are being abused, and proactively respond with higher levels of journalistic excellence and effort, they will continue to be inadvertent collaborators and enablers of the Trump gang. The organizations that have kept a high standard of truthfulness, like Mother Jones and Vox, or even raised their truthfulness level like MSNBC, have done so by staying true to effective journalistic efforts, and a refusal to cooperate with the truth abusers they encounter in the White House, and other branches of government.
Fact and truth oriented news organizations have also chosen to dig beneath the surface of appearances (truth abusers rely upon appearances) to discover the root fearfulness and self-interest that drives the dissembling the world has been exposed to since Trump was elected last year. As soon as other news organizations choose to escape the abusive relationship with the Trump gang they are enabling, by choosing to be assertive in truth and fact reporting, the Truth Value of their content will rise to the level of fact.
Closing thoughts and recommendations
Obviously there are many choices for where you get your news of the world. In this report I have included the most common sources, that also claim to be valid purveyors of news and facts. I have not included news aggregators, as is done on Facebook and other media platforms, as these have no effective continuity in where and how they source the supposed news. As a general rule, beware of news aggregators as they have little or no rules regarding sourcing or responsibility for what is broadcast.
I do want to take a moment to address what will be a likely rebuttal to this article. The three highest Truth Value ratings we discovered in this two part report were that for MSNBC, Mother Jones, and Vox. I recognize there may be someone’s uncle yelling, “This guy is a hippie, super-liberal, socialist, commie! Of course, only the “liberal media” got a high rating!” I understand this misconception, and there is a reasonable retort.
The truth, and facts do not have an idealistic or political bent. The truth is the truth, no matter what social or political system one person prefers. If an entire news program production crew has voted for Bernie Sanders for US president in 2016, but produces unbiased, fact based, multi-sourced information for broadcast, then it will be over a 50% Truth Value. Period. If your uncle isn’t comfortable with the Truth and facts, he is welcome to go back to watching Fox News, or reading Breitbart.
The belief that a particular news organization produces untruthful content because their values differ from others in particular political or religious camps, does not change the reality that certain content is factual or truthful.
The false belief that facts can only come from sources you happen to agree with, commonly proffered in some corners of the political and social engineering class (yes I am talking to you Bill O’Reilly), is quite plainly, bunk. A fact, is a fact, is a fact; and the truth is simply that. No amount of name calling, assumption of bias, or groundless accusation will change a fact, or the truth.
I have spent two decades studying the structure of truth, and the universal structures of reality that we can call the capital 'T' Truth, and I can confirm for all of you that there are reliable content providers in the world, as defined in this report. Anyone is welcome to disagree, but just be clear that disagreements should also be based in fact, or else you may just be selling something the rest of us aren’t interested in buying.
Hmm... maybe that was a little blunt. Oh well, moving along…
Let's return now to a question some may have been asking prior to reading this post. “Where is all the ‘fake news’ coming from?” The answer is clear now:
With just a few exceptions, the answer is that so-called "fake news" is coming from nearly everywhere.
I understand that when this recently invented ‘fake news’ phrase was introduced, it was meant as a term describing bold lies, masked as news content. The ultimate benefit of this Truth Value report, is to inform you that a massive portion of what is considered to be real news is so limited in factuality and valuable context, the recognition must be that so-called, "fake news" is only slightly more nefarious and corrosive to a democratic society than the news most of us consider to be real and reliable.
With this in mind, you have to ask yourself what is ultimately worse:
The story that is suspect on the surface and in the final tally is totally false; or, the story that is just mostly false, but well presented, seemingly factual, and broadcast around the world by a once reputable source?
I’ll let you decide that for yourself.
Choose your information sources wisely. If you want to gain the facts about the world, then you’d do well to focus your attention on MSNBC, Mother Jones, and Vox. Even with these news organizations you will also want to read and view objectively, with no expectations, no assumptions, and with a recognition that we are all susceptible to having our existing biases reinforced. Skepticism isn’t particularly valuable, but careful awareness and logic-based curiosity will always serve you well.
As we move forward with additional Inception Publishing releases, you will have the opportunity to learn Truth Value verifications for yourself, and learning that skill set will allow you to eliminate all concerns about the quality of the information you are exposing yourself to. So, stay tuned for that exciting development!
Thank you for investing your time and energy in this report, and feel free to send me questions or comments. My hope is that this information provides immediate value for you, but I also recognize that Truth Value reporting is new to most of us, so there may be some questions. I’m always happy to answer those questions when you have them. Thank you too for being a loyal reader of Inception Publishing content!
The Truth Value of part 1 of this report is 80.6%. Part 2 is 83%. Thus, these reports are entirely truthful, and are of essential value to all persons reading them.