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Where Do You Get Your News?

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Where Do You Get Your News?

Last week I had the opportunity to present in a couple of classes to new education majors. Before class, several students were chatting with the instructor about a local school board meeting they attended as part of an assignment. They were surprised at the length of the meeting and the attention, or lack thereof, paid to items on the agenda. What a great assignment! The issue it raises for me is how well we follow what is going on in our communities and where that information comes from.

I believe that, to be an educated, informed, and involved citizen and voter, which is a goal of education at every level, one must know what is happening in one's communities. What concerns me on this front is the number of filters that are applied to what we once called "the news."

"News" may be as small as what is happening in our workplace or our classes, or it may be as broad as world happenings. Somewhere in between lies what is going on in your district or state regarding education, and in my state, there's a lot.

Here is what I see, though: "News" today is quite often not news as defined by facts. It is entertainment designed to attract viewers, either broadcast or online. It is opinion or commentary, repeated ad infinitum so as to become "fact" with certain segments of the population with whom the opinion resonates. This is not limited to one side or the other of the political spectrum - it goes both ways. Issues get labeled so as to bias a group against or for some issue or person, and that label becomes so attached that many people cannot even tell you what the actual issue is. Have you heard of "Watergate"? "Slick Willy"? "Obamacare"?

Perhaps I am preaching to the proverbial choir; I hope so. It is important to me as an educated and involved citizen - and as an educator - that teachers and their students are able to distinguish fact from opinion. It may be impossible to report news in a completely unbiased and objective way; after all, humans are responsible for the reporting. The fact is, however, that sources of what is called "news" are not equal. I hope that you will help your students understand this. Priceless is the educator who can distance him- or herself from an issue enough to help students learn to separate the noise from the facts and draw informed conclusions.

So I pose these questions: Do you get your news from The Onion or from the New York Times? From NBC Nightly News or from Huckabee? From Scott Pelley or from Jon Stewart? From "The Colbert Report" or from CNN? From your local newspaper and television stations or from "Saturday Night Live"? From your attendance at the school board meeting, or from "I heard..."? Can you explain the difference to your students? Where do you get your news?

Kent McAnally, Director of Career Services

Washburn University, Kansas

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