It’s hard to determine what is actually “news” any more. In the past, it was pretty easy. You watched TV at 6:00 and someone told you what happened that day, then you ate dinner. Maybe you read the newspaper in the morning to see what happened overnight. It was pretty straightforward.
It’s much more complicated today. We have unlimited access to stuff that happens every day, but we seem to know and understand much less. A lot of it has to do with modern media. Where the TV news used to primarily present reports of stuff that happened, now we have to consider what the TV news broadcaster is trying to tell us about the stuff that happened. It’s a sad state that on TV news, what is reported is molded to make you think a certain way about the issue at hand.
Always in the back of our minds, we have to consider, “What is the newscaster’s angle? Do they have a philosophical dog in the fight? Is there something they’re leaving out of the story? Are they using emotionally loaded words or images?”
It’s a lot of work to apply all those filters. So it’s no surprise that Americans pay so much attention to the fluffier stories. It follows, then, that the newscarriers seek to provide us with more of what we really want: news as ‘empty calories.’
“What happened with Kim Kardashian’s marriage? How is Lindsey Lohan doing with her community service? When will her Playboy spread come out? What’s going on with that ‘Real Housewife of Upper Sandusky’? Didn’t her husband shoot up a school or something? Which congressman has his willie out this week?”
Internet news is no better. There are eleventy-hillion jillion sites that carry “news” and they’re even more fractioned and factioned than TV, with zero oversight. Gossip and rumor are reported as fact. Opinions and ruminations are reported as fact. Questions are designed to lead you to concluding that the answer you come up with is a fact. Other sites research and verify the facts and are called partisan hacks, for their trouble.
So much news, yet no one knows what’s going on.
It is under these murky circumstances that I jumped on an email my mother sent me, which contained the Pew Research Center News Quiz. It was a simple 13-question survey designed to poll how much we know about current events and newsmakers.
In a nutshell, as a country we don’t know diddley-squat. Only 8% of all test takers got all 13 questions correct. Now I’m far too modest to list my score, so you’ll just have to
Oops… how’d that get in there? OK, I admit it: I aced it. So now let’s see how YOU do. Here’s the link. It took me about 5 minutes to do the test. Take it yourself and then you’ll know how you stack up. Put your score in Comments, if you dare. I want to see how many of you can join me in lording our wisdom over everyone else.
If you take the test, you’ll see that they also give you a statistical breakdown by demographic. One thing that really surprised me was that on every question, men got the answer right more often than women. (And remember, it’s by percentage, not raw numbers, because you’d figure that more men took the test.)
Perhaps women just have too many more things to keep track of than men do. If you think about it, men have a lot more free space in their heads to store things if they don’t have to worry about crafts, home décor, recipes, horoscopes or their kids’ schedules. Of course men would have to subtract the room taken up by fantasy football stats, batting averages and golf swing mechanics.
I happen to think that you, as one of my readers, are pretty much on top of things. I’m sure you’re only visiting me here after you’ve done your day’s trawling for the news of the day. Believe me; I’m pleased to be your dessert; the cherry on top of your sundae, if you will!
Aw, crap, now I’m all hungry.
Anyway, let’s see what you’ve got… if you dare. And should you miss any questions, and we ever disagree on something later, I promise not to hold it over you. Much…
Note: If you’re going to take the test, please do so before reading comments, because there’s some discussion going on about the answers. No fair cheating!