While criticized as a leading source of misinformation, used properly, the Internet also puts the truth at our fingertips. It follows logically that as the volume of information increases, so to will the volume of misinformation.

In fact, the Internet allows unprecedented scrutiny of information from all sources.

Be an Open-Minded Skeptic:

Just because news is delivered with a gloss of authority doesn't make it true, it only means that it's been paid for by sponsors with deeper pockets.

For example, even news giant CNN has fully acknowledged they reported substantially inaccurate facts on the Bosnian war. CNN, eager to get a story out, failed to exercise due diligence. Misrepresented "facts" tainted public opinion severely.

Even if a story is covered without bias, reporting false information is equally, if not more damaging to the truth than is biased reporting of real facts.

CBC is famous for presenting national news as if it's a scripted press release read from the Prime Minister's Office. One man's Islamic Terrorist is the CBC's freedom fighter, with time the truth emerges.

Know Your Source

Knowing how and where to find resources is the only difference. Relying solely on off line media sources such as local TV news is a sure way to be manipulated. Even if you are given straight facts, they will form such a narrow viewpoint that you will be effectively sheltered from what a large number of people consider not only the truth, but common knowledge.

The media shapes public opinion because we all think about what we see and read the most. This primes us to find certain political platforms more attractive than we would otherwise.

The truth is, we're all full of our own biases; the only way to keep that in check is to expose ourselves to alternate points of view.

Conflict of Interest:

Most media sources are all owned by a handful of syndications. Does the name, Lord Conrad Blank, ring a bell? (pun intended) It's common knowledge that each source has it's own editorial slant and political bias. But what really drives editorial decisions behind closed doors?

If you think that what we are fed by media has not been selectively manipulated, you severely under estimate the amount of resources invested by special interest groups. Look no farther than the Election 2008 campaign. The amount of money being raised just to select the next democratic nominee is incomprehensible. Leveraging massive amounts of money to buy popular opinion. It all amounts to vote buying, and worst of all, it works. It's a test of who can raise the most money.

Google alone captures roughly 32% of the $21.4 billion in U.S. advertising spending, according to an Oct. 16 report by research firm eMarketer. Now that's a lot of money by any standard.

The dilemma is found in the erosion of the boundary between publishers and sponsors, and it's killing freedom of the press.

Think about the Don Imus case. He was paid to be artificially abrasive in the first place. Once he pushed the envelope too far, sponsors complained, he was cut. Nothing really happened, he just moved someplace else. It created news, and manipulated opinion. Much like staged wrestling, the whole affair catered to a marketing niche, not a news story.

This example was very public but what about all the details that editors must balance to stay within the advertising department's mandate. There is an inherent conflict of interest because publishers have to appease sponsors in order to remain financially viable.

Countering Special Interests and False Information:

It doesn't matter if what's being said about you or your company is true or not, in an vacuum, information will flow from all over the place to fill the void. Politicians can't ignore it, General Motors can't ignore it and neither can we.

How to tell if it's true:

Critical thinking and multiple sources.

Relying entirely on online or offline media sources makes no sense to me. Because the truth is buried somewhere in between all sources combined.

Most people aren't even aware that North America has an entirely different brand of news than the rest of the world, as in CNN International for example. Each populace is spoon fed what sponsors want.

Enter the Digital Divide:

There is a significant fracture emerging between the pre and post boomer generations. Gone are the days when we dared not question the authority of the books we read, the Dr.'s we visited or our mentors. Unless of course they're an infallible expert such as; Bono, Oprah or Dr. Phil.

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