News helps us shape our perception of the world and interpret events so that we can make personal and collective decisions to react accordingly. In a democracy, this is an incredibly important tool to help people and a population have a common understanding of the world, and share their views and opinions freely and then leverage their moral compass to reach a consensus and move forward.
Ideology (n): a system of ideas and ideals, especially one that forms the basis of economic or political theory and policy.
Worldview (n): a comprehensive conception or apprehension of the world especially from a specific standpoint.
News also shapes ideologies, beliefs, and worldviews through the information it delivers to readers. Given a certain set of information, some readers will most likely reach one conclusion. Given other information, another group will reach dramatically different conclusions. This has real consequences as people increasingly digest different information that is served through advertising and the intelligent Internet, that notice what kind of information you click on, and serves you similar information. Before you know it, you might be seeing a very limited set of information with a group of others only seeing a very limited set of information, and reaching very similar conclusions about politics, events, people, and groups.
Although advertisers innocently seek to get your attention and deliver messaging, goods and services to you that you are likely to want to buy so their businesses can thrive, the end effect is remarkably similar to propaganda, often resulting in the radicalization to the left or right that we see today. As groups are pulled further and further along into deeper echo chambers, they identify more and more with their group, and have a harder time identifying with people from groups with opposing opinions (often in other radicalizing echo chambers). Without an evolution in the way we understand the information we ingest, or the outlets providing it, we will become further divided at best, and see an increase in alienation, dehumanization, and even violence in our society. We cannot let this happen if we want to preserve the great principles of liberty and democracy that have brought great increases in knowledge, technological achievement, and economic advancement for people in the United States and around the world.
Echo Chamber (n): a metaphorical description of a situation in which information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a defined system. Analogous to an acoustic echo chamber where sounds reverberate in a hollow enclosure.
Propaganda (n): information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view; also: ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one’s cause or to damage an opposing cause.
Spectrum Report: Your Tool to See Through the Narratives
Spectrum Report was created to give us the tools we need to better understand the news in this new world, and more importantly, to understand each other better so that we might preserve democracy and liberty for generations to come. How do we do this? By presenting the news in new ways, and providing new tools that empower the reader to see through the narratives and better understand their world and the people they share it with.
Narratives (n): An explanation or interpretation of events in accordance with a particular theory, ideology, or point of view.
News Spectrum: Spectrum Report presents news from across a range of liberal and conservative news outlets, so you can see how readers are seeing their world reported on. Over time readers will notice patterns, or narratives that emerge from different outlets, that influence the thinking of readers, and may deliver indirect messages about public figures, groups of people, policies, countries, cultures, and current events. We invite you to engage with this spectrum and comment on what patterns or narratives you see.
Topic Spectrum Search: Want to see how different outlets on the left and right report on different topics? A quick Spectrum Search will show you articles from different outlets, so you can see the narratives emerge and understand how people with different worldviews are seeing the world around them. In addition, you’ll see analysis of these topics, along with fact-check results of statements, assertions, and articles from around the web, as analyzed by Snopes and Politifact.
Word, Topic, and Article Analysis: Words are powerful. Spectrum Report uses sentiment analysis to provide the mix of emotional tones of an article, or series of articles in the Spectrum Search. This can provide a general feel for what emotions the article or topic is meant to convey, from joy to disgust and anger. This is important for readers to better understand how the news is influencing their emotional reactions to certain topics. You’ll also find word clouds, which show you which words are being used most often in the article or series of articles. This can help you see how certain topics are being linked and conceptual connections are being drawn by the outlet’s reporters.
Fact-Checking: Don’t believe everything you read. In a world full of content, opinions, and unfiltered assertions, it’s important to know not only what news is fake news, but what statements are false, and where they came from. Spectrum Report uses Snopes and Politifact, a Pulitzer-Prize Winning website for fact checking the information that is presented in the public sphere.
Outlet Reports: Spectrum Report also gives you the option to view analysis on the historical articles pushed out to the Internet. You can view fact-checking files for the outlet, and see what statements made on or by that outlet have been true or false so you know what to believe.
Outlet Guessing Game: Games have been shown to help people engage when learning a new topic, but also they’re a ton of fun! So we created “Guess Whose Headline” – a game that gives you a chance to refine your narrative-spotting prowess and share with your friends to see who gets the bragging rights. Enjoy responsibly and share.
We hope that you find these tools useful as you seek to understand your world, your own views, and the views of others. Please comment below or on pages that bring you a new insight. As always, please communicate freely but respectfully. The purpose of Spectrum Report is not to incite more division, but to help us communicate better and get out of our echo chambers to improve our world together.
Liberty (n): the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.
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