Disclaimer: If you think I wrote this with you in mind, please see the Disclaimer section at the bottom.
A friend of mine shared an article this morning from The Atlantic entitled, What Can Prewar Germany Teach Us About Social Media Regulation? It had been re-titled by the time I landed on the page, along with an interesting subtitle:
A Lesson From 1930s Germany: Beware State Control of Social Media – Regulators should think carefully about the fallout from well-intentioned new rules and avoid the mistakes of the past
After reading the article en toto, I had the following thoughts:
- Broadcast Radio is one-way
- Online news used to be two-way (reader comments enabled)
- CNN disabled reader comments back in the late 1990s
- ALL news media except Fox News (and perhaps a couple of others) disabled reader comments beginning in March and April 2020
- Granny Clampett might ask, Why’d they go and do a dang fool thing like that, fer?
- She’s right.
Air Force Handbook 33-337, The Tongue and Quill, has much to say about feedback. Lest you think this handbook is amiss, remember: The U.S. Air Force developed the greatest air and space superiority — by far — on the planet. That feat required a massive amount of very clear, compact and precise communication, and we didn’t get there by ignoring feedback.
“Fight for Feedback and Get Approval: When you’ve completed the editing process and done what you can to improve your communication, it’s time to move outside yourself to get feedback. We are all limited in our ability to criticize our own work, and sometimes an outside opinion can help us see how to improve or strengthen our communication. Your objective is to produce the best possible product; don’t let pride of authorship and fear of criticism close your mind to suggestions from other people.”
Key Takeaway: Feedback so important one should never wait for it to just happen. Seek it out! The Bible has a great deal to say about seeking wisdom, along with much to say about those foolish enough to avoid it. Same goes for facts, particularly with respect to “winnowing the chaff from the wheat.” There was as much misinformation and disinformation floating around 2,000 years ago as there is today.
“Interest is proportional to the volume of feedback.”
Key Takeaway: Stories with high quantities of feedback are NOT something to be “fixed.” Rather, they indicate significant interest. Time to conduct a random sample of comments and do some analysis to find out WHY the story generated such interest. Did the audience agree with you? Did they disagree with you? Was the article a little bit wrong? A lot wrong? Again, analyze the feedback, and NEVER dismiss it. Dissenting opinion warrants further investigation. Turns out the entire news organization may very well indeed be WRONG, operating off commonly-held agendas because they’ve been selecting staff for decades of “fit their culture.” Such selection is rather common in both business and government and has lead many a business — and many a country — to its downfall.
“Polarized feedback implies a dynamic lecture.”
Key Takeaway: It also implies either a divisive topic, a divided audience, or both, or even all three.
“The “Seven Steps for Effective Communication,” recommends that you edit your own writing before asking for feedback from someone else. There are many reasons to do this. For one, it develops your own editing skills—you’ll be better prepared for those times when you don’t have access to a second opinion. Second, it shows respect for the people you’re seeking feedback from. Why should someone else invest time and effort to improve your writing if you aren’t willing to do so yourself?”
Key Takeaway: Eschewing feedback is not unlike trying to learn how to fly without a flight instructor. You stand a significant probability of damaging or the aircraft, not to mention injuring or killing yourself. Even if you do manage to succeed in avoiding catastrophe, you will definitely become a bad and dangerous pilot. A “good stick,” perhaps, but a BAD pilot. News is much the same, and hard but good editors give objective feedback, and lots of it, enough to turn college graduates first into better writers, then eventually into solid journalists.
“Fighting for feedback and getting approval for your communication are both activities that are part of life in the Air Force. When you fight for feedback, you voluntarily seek out someone else’s views on your speaking or writing product.”
Key Takeaway: Feedback is SO important to correcting communication that the official U.S. Air Force position is that everyone should FIGHT to get it.
“So, why should you fight for feedback? Perhaps the biggest benefit is getting a second set of eyes to review your work. Even the best writers and speakers can become so close to their projects that they can’t see where they can be made stronger. They may omit vital information, fail to see a weakness in their argument or just overlook the need for a transition between two main points. Their closeness to the material and pride of authorship can distort or obscure their viewpoint. Smart communicators realize this tendency and seek objective feedback from a fresh set of eyes. If you seek out and listen to feedback, you are much more likely to produce accurate, understandable communication that “answers the mail” and resonates with your audience.”
Key Takeaway: Self-explanatory, and something ALL would-be journalists, not to mention everyone who thinks they’re already journalists, should take to heart.
“The bottom line to getting feedback is having an open mind and being able to accept criticism. Don’t take comments personally, even if they seem like attacks to your project. Accept feedback willingly and use it constructively—it’s part of the process of developing a quality product.”
Key Takeaway: Nice closing. It reminds us the only way any communicator becomes better, whether they’re just starting out or they’ve been in the business 50 years, is to solicit and incorporate feedback, and not merely from those who praise you, but from those who care enough to present the other side of the coin, or even a completely different perspective with which you might never have been aware.
Objectivity and integrity are two very difficult milestones to achieve, and maintaining them requires a great deal of work.
Those who lack objectivity are often incapable of separating the chaff from the wheat i.e. discerning reality from propaganda. It takes a great deal of well-rounded study in multiple fields of discipline to accumulate both the broad and in-depth knowledge, not to mention the experience and wisdom, to identify well-crafted propaganda, especially when it’s been woven throughout the fabric of society which may very well include your peers, readers, editors and employers. It also takes a great deal of self-honesty and integrity to successfully reassess one’s beliefs in the light of well-verified and and highly accurate historic and contemporary fact. If you’re sticking with your current beliefs while cherry-picking your sources of information, not to mention the information itself, then you’re a fool who is only fooling yourself.
Those who lack integrity, however, well, they’re just spewing forth the party line even though they know it to be false. They’re dishonest. They’re liars, deceiving not only themselves but also all around them. Perhaps they’re smart enough to identify the propaganda but not smart enough to realize how harmful propaganda is when fed to the masses. Perhaps they’ve bought off on the lie that if everyone comes to believe the propaganda it’ll change society for the better. Some such changes, such as getting rid of Pharaoh and establishing a well-designed government populated with wise, well-educated and honest people of integrity, can be a good thing. Other such changes, such as getting rid of the Constitution so a “benevolent dictator” or “wise oligarchy” can improve American society are just insanely ignorant and idealistic foolishness. Stop re-electing power-hungry, agenda-driven control freaks and the Constitution works well enough to result in the greatest nation on Earth. Keep chasing after idealistic agendas, however, and we will soon wind up like Venezuela.
There are many elements to achieving outstanding journalism, but if you’ve mastered all the rest yet lack objectivity, or worse, integrity, you’re doing both you and your audience a grave disservice. Do not think for a second God will not hold those accountable who lie to and/or deceive His people. He will. He even said so in His Word. Feedback can greatly improve journalists of all experience levels, but only if they’re willing to seek it, listen to it, and approach all stories on their own merits, rather than as part of group-think or political agenda whole.
To all those who’re driven to uncover the truth from beneath the rubble of lies and deceit, I commend you!
To those who either ignorantly or deceptively continue to spew forth Mudstream Media’s idealistic, agenda-driven party line, however, WOE BE UNTO YOU.
Conclusion: The article includes an amazing quote: “State control over radio had been intended to defend democracy. It unintentionally laid the groundwork for the Nazi propaganda machine.”
These days, large organizations such as Facebook, Twitter, Apple, Google and Amazon have colluded with as much power, authority and control over citizen content as has any state. As a result, I fear our society is now both as fragile and dangerous as Nazi Germany.
I did not write this article with an particular journalist in mind. I read between 3 and 7 news articles, in-depth, from a wide variety of sources, including mainstream media such as WSJ, BBC, Newsmax, Brietbart, ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, The Atlantic, The Economist, and many, many others. I usually skim through between 20 and 30 articles a day. In addition, as an avid reader, I gobble up perhaps another 5,000 words a day from well-known and highly regarded editorials and commentaries.
Finally, I’m constantly perusing additional articles on subjects ranging from nuclear power generation to ecology, biodiversity to epidemiology, space exploration to oceanography and a very great many more. I’ve spent literally hours a day on various message forums since 1986, a total of more than 28 million words written since 1986.
To say that I stay well-informed would be ridiculously understating the case. I am horrendously over-informed, a condition which began when I started reading through the encyclopedia because I was bored out of my skull with homework. It wasn’t long before Mom suggested I move the encyclopedias and other reference materials up from the basement and put them on my desk.
Bottom line, I didn’t write this with anyone in mind. I wrote it with everyone in mind, whether they’re actual journalists or not. If it speaks to you one way or the other, then excellent — I’ve achieved my intent.
Useful Link: SPJ Code of Ethics, Society of Professional Journalists, Improving and Protecting Journalism since 1909
Lastly, I leave you with this excellent though from The Golden Rule of Journalism: Would you ever want journalists to either withhold facts to paint a distorted picture, or worse, outright lie to you, even though they were absolutely convinced it was for your own good?
Yeah. Me neither.