Last night I had a moment of clarity regarding old media and new media. I was listening to Terry Gross on fresh air, who was interviewing retiring NPR commentator Robert Siegel1. I had listened to his voice since childhood and as an adult I had come to trust and rely heavily on reporting from NPR. That feeling of long held trust was quite a contrast to my response to a piece of reporting I has heard on All Things Considered earlier in the evening. In that story a reporter was attributing the huge number of bonus checks being distributed by Comcast and AT&T to the recently passed tax changes2. While the tax plan may have been a factor, these two companies mentioned are the beneficiaries of an even more lucrative handout from the government as a result of the recent repeal of net neutrality rules. The fact that NPR omitted mention of net neutrality in a story that highlights the celebrations of two central figures in that fight was alarming. One might hope that NPR would have been leading the charge on informing the public of the net neutrality debate. While the typical NPR format of presenting two sides of an issue has been tweaked a bit recently to remind listeners that lies regularly emanate from the White House, the format still has reporters parrot talking points such as “sweeping regulations3”, that do little to shed light on complicated issues. The use of satire found in new media outlets is a more effective tool in exposing fraud when the political discourse goes off the rails. In his interview Robert Siegel mentioned comedian John Oliver by name as someone who really did well researched reporting breaking open the issue of net neutrality4.
The takeaway for me is that learning the whole story cannot be as easy as turning on the radio and listening to a trusted voice. As much as I have loyalty and warm feelings tied to Public Radio, I will definitely need to reflect on what is being said and probably need to dig to see other useful perspectives. The kicker is that loss of net neutrality could make finding other perspectives more difficult. The simplification of a narrative for the sake of fitting it into a news time slot has made me deeply skeptical. I wonder what other stories have or will be distorted by skimming over the facts.