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Don't Believe It!: How Lies Becomes News Paperback – March 1, 2005
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About the Author
Alexandra Kitty is a journalist who specializes in crime and media issues. She has a BA in psychology from McMaster University and a MA in journalism from the University of Western Ontario. She lives in Hamilton, Ontario.
Top customer reviews
If there is such a thing as The Reason for such a state of affairs, it is that, in general, journalists don't bother to check a story's accuracy. In this 24-hour-news world, there is little, or no, time to be thorough. It is better to be first than right. If a story has been covered by some other media outlet, it must automatically be legitimate. Also, an increasing number of scam artists have learned to package their scams in a media-friendly way.
All of us have seen such stories in the news. Some people claim to have found disgusting things in their food, like needles in soda cans, or fingers in chili. During Gulf War I, there was the widely reported accusation that Iraqi soldiers burst into Kuwaiti maternity wards, took the babies out of incubators, left them to die on the floor, and took the incubators. A popular story is the one about a crime victim, or someone, especially a child, fighting some major disease. Whether or not the poor individual actually exists tends to be forgotten. What if the reporter is the one who says they are sick, but then it turns out to be a lie. How many of these stories turn out to be true?
Included are a list of questions that the media consumer can ask to help weed out the hoaxes. How well is the story sourced? Is the story over hyped? Is the rumor inflammatory or slanderous? Does this interview subject have something to gain by lying? Was a "friend of a friend" the origin of the rumor? Does the story rely on unnamed sources? In war zones, does one of the warring sides seem to have media training or have hired a public relations firm?
This book belongs in every home in America. It does a fine job of showing just how easily scams and hoaxes can become news, and helping the consumer to distinguish them from legitimate news. The writing is first-rate and it is really easy to read.
I think people of all political persuasions need to read this book. I'm a liberal, and I found myself sympathizing with some of the author's complaints politically. But I would have sympathized with some of them had I been a conservative. I was impressed by the way that the author analyzed bad reporting independent of its political stance.
I was especially intrigued by the section on propaganda. Here, Kitty shows us how the media feed us an overdose of dubious anecdotes, demonization, and material from which relevant parts have been censored. We see stories with all sorts of logical holes that are simply designed to get a reaction from the audience rather than report accurately, educate, or inform. And we are misled by straight-faced claims that are utter nonsense, such as that prosperity for one side in a struggle would be a violation of rights for the other side.
I do not know how thoroughly the author takes her own advice. But we certainly ought to!