What’s Your Angle?

One of the most obnoxious teachers I ever had actually said something useful that I never forgot.  He told us that every writer has biases which will influence the way the story is told. He said we should always look beyond the words on the page to the motivations of the writer.

My teacher’s advice rings true today.  Our country seems to be splitting between those who watch and believe only Fox News and those who watch and believe only CNN.  Few people admit to watching both TV news channels.  The fear is that our country is splitting into two warring factions with little in common.

While it’s difficult and annoying to watch people talk past each other, it’s not a new phenomenon.  Our country has always been split between opposing viewpoints. Most towns had a local version of the Fox News and CNN split because they had two hometown newspapers.

Nashville had two hometown newspapers, The Tennessean and the Nashville Banner. The papers were owned by men who disliked each other and always took opposing sides on every hot topic of the day. Subscribing to both papers would have allowed readers to see two angles to every story, particularly the political news.  But it’s much more likely that readers subscribed to the paper that aligned with their own beliefs.

That shouldn’t surprise anyone.  Any psychologist or anthropologist can point to countless studies showing how reluctant we are to change our views.  We tend to select friends who agree with our worldview.  We also choose either Fox News or CNN based on which channel supports our existing ideas.

We’re not going to change human nature.  That means we’re going to continue living in a country full of people who choose to listen to the news sources that support their beliefs.  The most we can do is to stop vilifying the people on the other side of the divide.

People on the other side of the divide are not stupid or vicious or uncaring.  They simply have life experiences that have taught them to believe differently.   That’s their motivation, their angle on the story.

 

About Norma Shirk

My company, Corporate Compliance Risk Advisor, helps employers (with up to 50 employees) to create human resources policies and employee benefit programs that are appropriate to the employer’s size and budget. The goal is to help small companies grow by creating the necessary back office administrative structure while avoiding the dead weight of a bureaucracy.  To read my musings on the wacky world of human resources, see the HR Compliance Jungle (www.hrcompliancejungle.com) which alternates on Wednesday mornings with my history blog, History By Norma, (available at http://www.normashirk.com). To read my musings on a variety of topics, see my posts on Her Savvy (www.hersavvy.com).

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