Narrative (năr′ə-tĭv):
1. The art, technique, or process of narrating.
2. An explanation or interpretation of events in accordance with a particular theory, ideology, or point of view.

Understanding Narratives

It is becoming more and more clear to more and more people these days that news is not simply a series of reports about “the facts”, but that most outlets tell a story about something that has happened. News outlets must make choices about which stories to report on, and how they are reported about, and many of these choices are made along ideological lines or beliefs about how the world works – and this constitutes an over-arching narrative. This can be done based on subconscious bias or individual interest at best, or can be done consciously as a form of building support for an agenda or organization, or even as propaganda at its worst.

This construction of the narrative has become a science, with psychology and sociology woven into the education and practice of public relations and journalism. As readers, we cannot consume news at face value anymore and hope to get an unbiased, balanced view of the truth. We need new ways of thinking about news, and new tools to help us understand the narratives that are being crafted and delivered to us through news outlets and social media.

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Many people get their news from outlets and communities that reinforce their beliefs and views, while websites return stories that are similar to what readers have already seen or searched for. This creates “echo chambers” that limit people’s perspectives of events, isolate them from diverse opinions, and alienate them from friends, family members, and fellow human beings that are getting information from other echo chambers. This can lead to extremism, dehumanization of ‘others’, and the view that people with conflicting beliefs are ignorant or just plain stupid. This is further exacerbated by the use of ‘strawman’ arguments and stories, that create weakened or obviously absurd versions of the opponent’s argument, and then easily arguing against or ridiculing the strawman argument, while ignoring any potential truths or nuance to the opponent’s argument.

We Need New Tools to Understand the News

We need to be able to see through these narratives, by understanding who is telling the story to us, what the narrative is that they are building with their stories, and by comparing these narratives to others so that we can get a clearer vision of what is true and what is propaganda. In this way we will be less susceptible to manipulation and more able to have productive conversations about what is happening in our world.

Spectrum Report brings you the news from outlets across the (you guessed it) spectrum of ideologies and political leanings, so that you can see how an issue is being reported upon differently, and make up your own mind about what you believe, vs taking at face value what the outlets you might normally come in contact with would like you to believe.

Spectrum Report gives you several tools to help you understand the narratives of different news outlets:

  • News Spectrum – we present you with an array of news perspectives so you can see what they are focusing on and how they tell their stories.

 

  • Search Topics – by searching topics of interest, you can see how a particular topic is represented differently across the spectrum.

 

  • Word clouds – word clouds below every article show you what is being presented regularly throughout an article, or by a news outlet so you can see patterns arise, especially concerning particular topics

 

  • Sentiment Analysis – for articles and outlet reports – this feature uses machine learning to extract the emotional tone of the article you are reading, topic you search for, or the outlets you read, so you can see how they are conveying the news to you, and how they may want you to feel about it

 

  • Outlet Reports – these reports show you how the different outlets are reporting across all topics, so that you can understand the themes and tone they convey

 

  • Headline Guessing Game – Guess which outlet posted the headline to learn how to spot narratives from different news sources. Share your score and challenge your friends!

With these tools at your fingertips, we hope that you will gain a better understanding of the way the world around you is being presented to you, and how others have reached the conclusions or perspective they have. In this way you can be a voice of reason when competing, divisive voices call for outrage, antagonism, and discord, and instead help to facilitate the meaningful dialogue and understanding that we’ll need to make progress together in our rapidly changing world.

Check out Spectrum Report here and let us know how you see the narratives presented.


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