I was a young man back in early 1980’s. It was the first trip to Germany for an exercise called REFORGER. My unit was involved in broadcasting psychological operations. At that time I really did not understand how it worked. 23 years later that would change significantly. That first trip started my

Take off

Broadcasting propaganda in combat zones

education in propaganda even though my specialty was not propaganda.

Every evening I would tune into the news on a radio. The first broadcast I would listen to was Armed Forces Radio and Television Service. The second broadcast I would listen to was the then Soviet Union broadcasting news in English back to Europe and American troops.

It did not take me long to see the differences. It was the same essential news with different descriptions of the facts. When I returned to the U.S. I started listening to the news with a different ear. It was now tuned more to the descriptions rather than the facts. I would also listen more carefully to voice inflection. If watching TV news I would observe facial expressions and body language. My skepticism started to build.

With the advent of 24/7 Cable News and the Internet, we started having more ways to get news and opinion. Today it is more opinion than news, regardless of the place you get your information.

The question is why? The reason is simple. Emotion appeals to the reader, listener or viewer. More eyeballs on the station or website and listeners result in more advertising dollars. It is a simple follow the money thing.

An additional problem is the bias of most media outlets. 96% of all donations by people in media went to the Democratic Party. Notice all the advertisements on that link. How can a group be that devoted to a political party and not have it slant their judgment? Add to that, most educators are liberal and give to the Democratic Party. If you are like me you wonder if the nation will ever be able to recover. No wonder FOX News is so popular!

There is huge competition in the media today. You have to be the first to break something new to stay on top of the ratings. There are also smaller budgets due to the competition. That means fewer actual reporters out in the field. They often rely on people with smartphones taking video and website reporters who often get it wrong.

When I was very young (in the 1960’s and 70’s) you had basic news at 6 and 11 PM. If you wanted anything more you had to wait for a Sunday show or pick up a newspaper. People seemed to focus more on family and everyday life. Politics was discussed but not like it is today.

Bottom line: Think about the headlines your read on the web or print. Consider the lead phrase into a story on TV, radio etc. Listen carefully to the narrative. Study the use of emotional words and body language. Watch for opinion versus simple facts. Ask yourself if the story could have been approached from another point of view or with less emphasis on the emotional triggers. Never believe something if it sounds over the top without doing your own investigation. Make sure you understand if you are watching, reading or listening to a solid news story or if it is an opinion piece. The lines are so blurred today it is difficult to see the difference.

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