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Posts Tagged ‘reporting’

I am not a fan of politics.  In fact I am quite disturbed by the shenanigans taking place in the world of politics these days.  But I realize I must not let what I read and what I hear stir me to such a state that I act purely based upon emotion and the sliver of information that has caused the emotion.  Why?  Because in most cases there is more to the story than initial reporting would lead us to believe.

Working in the industrial environment for over 35 years, with much of that being in roles handling problem-solving and root cause analysis, I’ve learned the importance of gathering data in a prompt and thorough manner.  A benefit in the industrial setting is that the equipment failure information is generally less influenced by personal bias and agendas.  There are a few instances where persons may lie to try and save themselves from perceived negative consequences of their actions, but this is far from the norm.  And it is usually easy to ferret out when the lie does not square with the rest of the evidence.

When I train persons in performing Root Cause Analysis a fundamental principle is to lay aside emotion, bias, and preconceived ideas and let the evidence guide the analysis.  Excellence in evidence collection is essential.  Excellence is not achievable if we perform our data collection with a strong belief in what the end result should be guiding our data collection and analysis.  In an equipment failure investigation, a true failure path exists with real reasons that connect together form the root causes to ultimate failure.  By gathering the evidence without regard to final remedial action steps, we enable ourselves to concentrate solely upon the accuracy of the data.  Once the data is gathered it becomes much simpler to analyze the information and read the story the evidence tells.

I was speaking with a friend last night and he made the statement that he wished there were investigative journalists who were able to dig to uncover the facts without bias.  It is discouragingly rare these days.  We both feel that for the most part bias. or worse, a hidden agenda, either in the investigative process, the analysis, or the communication, dictates the majority of what is reported.  Watching competing news networks gives the impression they are reporting upon two radically different events when at the end of the story we realize they are talking about the same thing.  When a person watches this style of reporting which is often more inflammatory rhetoric than good journalism, it is easy to get emotionally stirred, even when the evidence is thin and the analysis is poorly done.

To their defense, news outlets are in the business of reporting news as soon as it is breaking.  This necessitates early communication even before any real evidence is gathered.  This is one of the reasons law enforcement doesn’t speak freely about on-going investigations – all the data has not been gathered and the analysis hasn’t been performed.  Having been involved in well over 400 failure investigations there have been a number of times (I estimate 10 – 15%) that the initial beliefs about why a failure occurred have been flat wrong.  Additionally, the number of times the initial belief ended up being only a factor is probably about the same 10 – 15%.  Putting this in terms of a criminal court case, if we moved on the initial evidence we would send the wrong person to jail 20 – 30% of the time.

So in news reporting, if we take the first blush of information and the hypothesis we make, we can expect to be wrong at least 20 – 30% of the time.  And this is if they are giving us solid facts from the beginning.  Sadly, this is where news reporting today now gets worse rather than better.  If bias and agenda plays into the data collection, analysis, and reporting, then you can reasonably expect that the majority of the news reporting is inaccurate.  Since I make it a practice to routinely check news from three sources – NBC, CNN, and FOX, I can see this at work.  I have back-checked the record at times and the results are disturbing to say the least.  The number of major stories reported as certainties that have later been debunked is alarmingly high.  (And, yes, certain networks are definitely worse than the other, but they all have moments of getting it wrong in their rush to be first.)  Plus, the lack of correction and admission of error is astounding.  While I wish the term Fake News had died a quick death, it hasn’t.  The reason it hasn’t is because it is true enough times that the moniker finds ample opportunities to stick.

Looping back to the premise of this post, if we are not careful our emotions can be stirred to the point that we believe a lie.  Confirmation bias is a subject I have read about recently and it is one of the reasons I routinely take a look at three different networks to see not just what, but how they are reporting.  I compare what I see from these three and what I read from other sources to try and uncover what’s true.

I realize I have certain beliefs and biases myself.  I am inclined to put more weight on certain points of evidence because of those beliefs.  But even in this, I understand that more evidence is likely to come out so I try not to become emotionally stirred.  I make it my goal to gather ALL the available evidence before coming to a judgement.  Also, it is appropriate to weigh the biases of the person(s) and group providing the information.  Just like in my root cause investigations where I have to determine whether an eye witness might be misrepresenting their testimony to protect themselves from discipline, I weigh the source of the information to determine how credible it might be.  Above all I strive to remember that I can be wrong.  For a fairly confident person who prides themselves on being true, accurate, and honest this is something I strongly want to avoid.  So I try to be cautious in weighing the information and making a decisions.  And guarding my emotions is a crucial element in that process.

Now living in this place that is not always comfortable.  It would be easy to decide on what I have read and heard thus far and simply take a stand.  From that point I could then look to around to see who agrees with me and accept them as my new friends and I could even stoop to pick up rocks to hurl at the folks who believe the opposite… and I would become one more person perpetuating the problems that threaten to tear this nation apart.

But this morning I renew my intention of remaining an observer and searcher for the truth.  I may have an opinion based upon the evidence thus far, but I cannot let it dictate my emotions or even what evidence I hold onto and what evidence I discard.  At some point we will have the body of evidence and then we will see what the verdict is.  Will it be “evidentially sufficient” (J. Warner Wallace author of “Cold Case Christianity”) to make a decision?  I expect so.  Will some still clamor for the opposite opinion?  Definitely.  Will I then be able to let my emotions dictate what I believe and do?  Nope.  You see, I want to remain logical and clear-minded so I can weigh new evidence that comes forth.  I may get emotional and that’s okay.  Perhaps I’ll even experience righteous anger, which is not a bad thing so long as the anger part is properly vented.

As I’ve written this, I have wondered and prayed because this is much different than the majority of my posts.  Yet I have felt compelled to write.  The thought has rumbled around in my head for awhile, but only last night did the compulsion to blog it come about.  As I paused in writing a few moments ago to pray, Jesus words came through loud and clear.

‘To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. ‘ John 8:31-32
https://www.bible.com/bible/111/JHN.8.31-32

What Jesus said to the Jews who were following Him then, He says to us today.  If we hold on tightly to Jesus and His teaching we will know Him Who is Truth incarnate.  If we are His, then He has placed the Holy Spirit within us.  If we listen to the Holy Spirit we will be able to discern truth from error.  We will love and be lifted when we hear truth.  And we will be able to clearly see lies for what they are.  It greatly simplifies life.  With a part of my mind I will listen, observe, and consider the inputs coming in.  With my spirit I am listening, observing, and considering where the Holy Spirit is leading.  While I still fail to fully tune in at times, when I do, He is always, always there to lead and help me.  I try not to let my emotions get riled because of the news (or many other igniters of passion), but I try to hear and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit.  He is the Spirit of Truth.  And in Truth we can trust.

More ramble than usual, but something I had to get off my chest.  I hope this gives you points to ponder and pray about.

Have a blessed day my friend and be a blessing!

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