Hi, nice to Media!

One of the main purposes of schooling is to produce educated, informed citizens – people who can think, interpret and make sense of the world for themselves. This idea, an “Educated Citizenry” is a necessary pre-requisite for a functioning democracy. There are many sources of information in the world – some are good, some are… less so. The media is a primary source of information for people to learn what is happening in the world; after all, you can’t be everywhere. To find out what is happening around the world you must read reports about what is happening. Just like any source of information, the quality of information in the media varies dramatically. Issues can be complex, and journalists may not have specific expertise in the material they are reporting on – and to make it even harder, frequently their will be the intent to “shape public opinion”, by providing information to the public that is only part of the story. This is often called “Spin”, but it is more honest to call it propaganda.

Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park, Prey and other Spec-fi novels) also commented on the reliability of information in the press:

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward – reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

    In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

So, how do you – a student of physics pick your way through the media to find the “truth”? Well, good luck! Everyone tries to do that, and the best I can suggest is that being sceptical about everything you read is helpful. At least that way, when you are wrong about something, it is pleasant outcome rather than a nasty surprise.

This task, a “Media Response” is a chance to put into practice some of those skills you will need throughout your life. Your task is to respond to a piece of media with a selection of facts and physics theory to justify a position in about that topic. You are strongly adviced to have sought information about the real world nuclear applications and usage in order to support your viewpoint. Remember that whatever information you research at is also potentially biased!

Here are two previous posts that may give you some starting points (and, yes – they are biased!)

1. Nukuphobia

2. Media Response Planning

If you haven’t read these two (and their links), it is unlikely that you will be able to respond effectively to the outcome.

OK, the task is ready to go; we will be starting next lesson.

Good Luck & See you in Class.

Explore posts in the same categories: Philosophy, Physics

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