Finding Accurate Information

By George A. Boyd ©2023

Q: In what ways can information be presented accurately in modern media? There is so much misinformation that is disseminated.

A: There are a variety of presentation formats in which information can be presented in various media. Here are some of the different types:

  1. News reporting – This gives brief information about what is going on in the world today. It identifies important events and presents significant personalities to the viewer. The Nightly News on most broadcast media is of this type.
  2. Brief interview – Here a news anchor or moderator asks questions to a guest to understand a newsworthy question more completely. This can devolve into a defensive, argumentative exchange if the host and guest are on different wavelengths—for example, if host and guest have different religious or political views—or if the interviewers’ questions are accusatory, or challenging the guest’s veracity or account of events. Short three to five minute news interviews on different media, or brief segments on shows like “60 Minutes.”
  3. In-depth exposition – In this format, there is an article or program that goes into depth on a particular topic or through an interview with someone—typically 30 minutes or more. It cites many sources, both those who corroborate the evidence and those that are critical of the evidence. Documentaries and investigative journalism take this approach.
  4. Monologue – In a monologue, a host discusses the news, often presenting it in a humorous way. It aims to elicit laughter; but it does communicate the host’s viewpoint on current events. You see this in late night comedy shows, where the hosts discuss the day’s events in a clever and funny way. This same format is used to interview celebrities or present new musical talent to entertain the audience.
  5. Deep exploration of ideas – In this presentation, an interviewer will ask questions to get a guest to elucidate and expand upon his or her ideas. This may ask a writer to talk about the ideas in a book; it may ask a producer or director to elaborate on the themes in a movie. Podcasts and in-depth interviews utilize this method.
  6. Sensationalism – This presents a point of view in an emotional way, which aims to stir sympathy, anger, fear, or outrage. At one extreme, this can be outright indoctrination into a political or religious doctrine designed to shape belief and behavior; at the other extreme, it presents information without any criticism or analysis—thereby transmitting distorted information, conspiracy theories, or propaganda to the public. This shows up in religious and partisan political programming, and tabloid journalism.
  7. Synthesis – This weaves the many strands of a story together to get “the big picture.” It presents commentary or analysis of the many strands that make up the disparate themes of the story and what their implication is. Experienced news commentators and independent journalists adopt this style.

Information gathering and dissemination types 3, 5, and 7 undertake a serious inquiry to uncover the truth and to gain an accurate grasp of the topic under investigation. Type 6 is the least likely to present the truth; it often presents a covert agenda to influence readers, viewers, or listeners to believe distorted or false information.

We suggest that you examine the format of the news and information you receive through various media—newspapers, magazine articles, radio, podcasts, television, and internet videos—to identify which of these types the hosts or anchors use to communicate to you. Notice which of these formats seem to unearth the truth, and which obfuscate it.

You cannot blindly believe whatever is presented through the media; you must use discernment and critical thinking to identify the information that is disseminated is valid, accurate, and reliable.