Your Fake News or Mine?

Your Fake News or Mine?

I read five newspapers per day. I quickly go through a system I developed years ago, asking “Does this apply to me, my market, my patients, my clients, any stakeholder in one of my companies?” I look for trends and actionable data. Most of the articles talk about things that are out of my control. Unless I’m betting on corn futures, I don’t really care about the weather.

So, 90% of the stuff I read in the the news gets skimmed and passed by. Some get clipped out, sent to my assistant for a client or as an interesting conversation starter for one of the many newsletters and articles I write. Often, I think and play devil’s advocate. It’s why I read papers from both the left and the right. Rarely, something makes me stop and laugh out loud. That’s exactly what happened the other day when I saw a small cartoon in the Journal, husband and wife sitting on the couch in front of the TV, when the husband asks, “Your fake news or mine?”

It’s a sign of the times. 62% of American adults get their news from Facebook (source: Pew Research). Facebook has an algorithm that is designed to keep you on their platform as long as possible. Translation: Facebook is showing you the news you want to see and are most likely to read. For me, I expect this would translate into sailboat, classic car and rare watch news 99% of the time.

In a world of “fake news,” it is important to consider everything being pumped into your device. Unless you intentionally seek out comprehensive information on any topic from a professional librarian, there’s a pretty good chance your news is biased.

Sir Francis Bacon said, “Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; but to weigh and consider.” I read a lot and I question a lot, but I still must remind myself to heed Bacon’s advice.

Too often, we sequester ourselves into groups that think and act like we do. We blindly follow advice without questioning or, even worse, we fail to listen to or take good advice because it challenges our assumptions or hard-wired belief system. In a world where MSNBC and Fox News viewers only hear and see news that confirms their biases, I’d like to propose another way to think about everything around you:

Force yourself to read and listen to news and opinions from “the other side.” If you’re a staunch conservative, make yourself read the New York Times, listen to MSNBC on the way to work and take a liberal friend out to dinner for a healthy conversation and debate.

Conversely, if you’re a bleeding heart liberal, hold your nose and turn on Fox News every now and then. Pick up a book by William F. Buckley Jr. and invite your pro-life, gun-toting friend to dinner for stimulating conversation and debate.
Second, make a commitment to weigh and consider before jumping to conclusions, blindly accepting someone’s advice or outright refuting everything you hear, depending on the source.

Consider this fact from a study by Princeton and Harvard economists: 94 percent of the 10 million net new jobs created between 2005 and 2015 were either temporary or contract-based, not traditional 9-to-5 positions. No one on the left or right dare mention this fact in the nightly news, but there it is, staring us right in the eye if we dare look at it. Only 6% of the jobs we’ve created since 2005 are full-time jobs with benefits.

Liberals dare not mention it, for fear of blasphemy against the Obama administration’s proud march to “add more jobs.” Please. We’ve got 94 million Americans who are not participating in the workforce. According to my math, that’s nearly a third of the damn country. Unemployment among men age 18-24 without college degrees is closer to 25%.

Conservatives dare not mention it either, for fear that the stock market bull run will come to an end and people might wake up to the reality that the next two bubbles to burst are the student loan debt crisis and the now- quickly-escalating auto-debt problem.

I’m not real comfortable knowing that 94 out of every 100 jobs created fail to offer benefits or full-time work. For my own selfish reasons, I like parents with good jobs and benefits who can afford orthodontic treatment. (Call me crazy, right?)
What other topics or questions do we avoid because they are uncomfortable or because we blindly follow the bias of our own fragment or subgroup inside the population?

Weigh and consider everything. Don’t use it as an excuse to stall your plans for action, but think deeper about everything that can affect your practice. My job isn’t to tell you how to think or what to do, but rather, to help you become a better thinker about all of this.

Worked at Burleson Orthodontics. Attended University of Missouri–Kansas City. Lives in Kansas City, Missouri.