Friday, July 5, 2013

Trust but Verify

Yes, the title of this post quotes Ronald Reagan, a man not too ideologically similar to myself. Or at least I thought so at 18 when I first voted and voted against him. I did him the same courtesy in 1984, but I was outvoted by my fellow citizens again that year.

When you're young, well, okay, when I was young, everything seemed much more absolute, particularly right and wrong. Reagan was wrong, and I was right. Back then I developed an affinity for the liberal press, particularly the New York Times and NPR. How gratifying it was to read and listen, especially since it seemed like they reported just what I was thinking.

To this day, I love them both, but I am no longer their yes lady. It's to the point where I swear NPR is more conservative than I am, especially their big-data lovin' ways. Perhaps it started with the 2008 election and the giddy infatuation with Barack Obama. Regardless, it continues with their mindless reporting on education, particularly standardized tests and national standards.

Maybe it's because it's taken some time, but I do feel like I have some first-hand knowledge and perhaps even expertise on some of the things they are reporting, particularly education. Such a perspective makes me much more critical of what I'm hearing and reading.

Just yesterday, I listened to an interview with fireworks expert, John Conkling. It seems that true blue is the holy grail of fire crackers, and you can tell the caliber of the show you are seeing by the intensity and brightness of the blue. At the end of the piece Conkling is asked whether the average person would be able to tell if the blue was true.

"Well, it's something that people who have really been involved with fireworks look for when they watch a show. But for the average person watching our Fourth of July show, the other colors that are out there, the patterns they produce, the effects they shoot up in the air, the timing, it just is so overwhelming that there - I think very few people who leave the show saying, boy, I wish I'd really seen a good blue," he says.

And that's how it is with press coverage; if you don't know what you're looking for, it all seems like a really good show.

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