Let's assume we have a problem with lies and bias in our media sources. For a more full discussion of how and why the problem exists and why it's a problem please read the article in my blog called Something Funny Happened To Me Today. I'm more interested in addressing possible solutions, or more specifically, this one particular idea for addressing this problem. I like my logical train of thought method for presentation of ideas AKA "logic trains". So get ready folks, we're going on a trip, all aboard!
To set this up we need to accept certain things as a given. First, the more biased an opinion is that contradicts one's own, the less likely one is to agree with it. Second, if the bias is extreme enough, one will interpret that bias as a lie. Third, when confronted with a perceived lie, the perceiver of that lie views the source of that information as having less credibility. Fourth, any information presented in such a way as to match one's own bias is more likely to be interpreted as truth even if it is an outright lie. In other words, we all tend towards believing what we want to hear and dismissing as untruth that which we do not want to hear. Fifth, when a "news" organization leans in a particular direction in the way that it presents the news for entertainment purposes the relationship between the news reporter and viewer becomes less trusting. Resultingly, we no longer trust our news sources to tell us the truth. This has resulted in the "multiple versions of truth" society that we live in today. If we can all agree so far, well to be frank, that's a small miracle these days. Being hopelessly optimistic, I'll continue onward.
We watch our news and we soak up the bias and when we try to watch the contrary news that we all refer to as "fake news" and our blood boils. We say "what the hell are they thinking?!" and we turn back to our own comfortable version of news. Wishing the whole time that we could force all of those idiots watching the other "fake news" to understand how they are being misled. "If only they could just see the truth". So, we can all agree that we'd like our news agency to get a "say so" in what the other "fake news" agencies are reporting and how they are reporting it so that "the idiots, who's vote counts just as much as my educated vote does" would share a reality with us and "finally get this country pointed in the right direction".
Who's version of reality is the truth? How do we get any sort of agency that could be trusted to tell us the actual truth? A widely accepted, nobody doubts it, real truth! Maybe just a single truth that we can all agree to at the very least?
We have an agency in our country that is not partisan, not run by the government, not influenced by corrupt elections or false allegations about them. An agency that when it tells us information we do not doubt the source, or question the bias in which it is delivered. It's an important agency that is entrusted with our most valuable resources. So it is possible. What is this agency you ask? The Credit Bureau. Three independently run and funded agencies that we entrust with almost every financial decision in our lives. When you check a potential tenant's credit or apply for a mortgage do you ask "was the person who reported this conservative or liberal, Republican or Democrat?"?
I'm a big fan of "not reinventing the wheel" whenever it's possible. Sometimes the wheel that exists is the best tool for the job. Sometimes the wheel that exists can be used as a model to create another similar tool.
What I submit to you is The Truth Bureau. Not government funded except for it's initial set up fund. Created by all of the different news agencies all coming together to regulate each other. Imagine CNN watching FOX and reporting them for violations to the Bureau for lies or bias. Now imagine FOX doing the same to CNN. Imagine when Tucker lies on FOX skewing inaccurate data about deaths related to the COVID vaccine, Chris Cuomo getting to come onto the FOX network at the same time of day on the same day of the week for twice as much time as Tucker spent lying and misleading to set the record straight. Now imagine when Jake Tapper on CNN leans into one of his extraordinarily biased, liberalized and inflammatory buzzwords, Sean Hannity coming on to CNN to school Jake in how inappropriate it is to be so biased while reporting "the truth". I chuckle just imagining it. Likely my imagination is the only place it'll ever happen.
No way to get the networks or any other news agency to agree to anything like this you say?
Our former President taught us some valuable lessons about how to get around our laws and our Constitution. In most cases they were dangerous lessons for future demagogues to take note of should they desire to destroy our democracy. One valuable thing he taught us is that denial of access to our press is not Unconstitutional. Whether it was booting members of the press off of Air Force One or having his cabinet members call reporters "liberal hacks!" while ignoring their questions. Access is the key.
Imagine if our leaders, our CEO's, eminent individuals, our news makers all pledge to only answer questions or cooperate with members of the press from organizations who's "Truth Rating" is 650 or better (scale set the same as credit rating scale for this example). A President at a press conference saying, "I'm sorry, I'd really like to answer your question. It's a good question. Unfortunately you're with XYZ news agency and that agency has a "Truth Rating" of only 500. My administration has pledged to only answer questions from news agencies who have proven their dedication to telling the truth and have a "Truth Rating" of 650 or better. Hopefully your organization will recommit itself to unbiased truth telling and stop spreading disinformation by rectifying whatever caused your rating to fall so low.". If enough news makers made the same pledge these biased lying agencies would effectively be denied firsthand news. They would be forced to report from second hand sources, yesterday's news.
If you have the choice would you rather hear or watch today's news or yesterday's news? You and everyone else too! Those agencies reporting second hand news would get watched or read less and that would effect the price of their advertising. Their revenue would decrease. Nothing effects change in the behavior of a corporation like losing money! Access to first hand news would require participation and membership in The Truth Bureau. Fringe news agencies would still be welcome to print lies and not participate but no longer with any sort of credibility. Those agencies that choose to participate could even pay a reasonable membership fee as a way to provide independent, not government funded income.
Clearly implementing this would require a massive PR effort with someone like a POTUS using that bully pulpit to get folks excited about it. But unlike most things, we all agree, something needs to be done about "that other" news agency. If we do nothing our country will become more divided. If we cannot even agree upon the color of the sky we will never agree on the complex solutions required to fix the complex problems we face in our society. We need to try something. This idea is something. You have a better idea? Tell somebody! Talk about it! Write somebody! Get off your ass and do something to help before our country tears itself apart! It is tearing itself apart now. Efforts to secede and disenfranchise. Threats or commission of violence upon those trying to insure fair and secure elections. True Democracy does not exist in a society where most folks believe mostly lies. Therefore true Democracy cannot exist where most sources of news feed us mostly lies. America, I dare you to do better!