Reading competing headlines with entirely different points of view made me ponder, “Who should I believe?”. I’m genuinely unsure who I should believe anymore. It appears that its acceptable for anyone and everyone to claim their opinion as factual, whether it’s valid or not.
What caught my attention when I read the headline: “‘Optimistic mood’ in Dubai property market” was that just a few days prior I read, “Dubai property price declines set to continue until 2020” from an equally significant publication. The two leading publications printed contradictory headlines just days apart. So, who’s right anymore?
Were the journalists biased towards causing panic or giving confidence? Given the opposing messages, it was clear that there was more to their articles than reporting the news because in a matter of days it’s unlikely the real estate market went from bull to bear. Journalist are no longer people who collect, write, or distribute news to the public.
Now they put a spin on it, many times an unbelievable spin. Journalistic biases have managed to turn facts into opinions.
I’m concerned about the rapid growth of yellow journalism that presents little or no legitimate well-researched news while instead using eye-catching headlines for increased sales or to mislead the public. The disappearance of objectivity and a lack of bias should be a concern of yours as well.
Advocacy journalism and activism intentionally adopt a non-objective viewpoint. This is more prevalent in social media and blogs, as well as other platforms that are used to manipulate or sway social and political opinions and policies. These platforms often project extreme bias, as “sources” are not always held accountable or considered necessary in order to produce a written, televised or otherwise “published” end product.
The real concern isn’t the bias of the media. It is how those biases are making the way into the boardroom and your everyday life.
No longer can you believe what you read. The surety of objectivity has been replaced with the need to be sceptical of the fact becoming an opinion. As a leader, if you accept the headline as reality, and it’s not, then you’re culpable for the ensuing damages.
It’s doubtful that you’ll make a major investment just from the headline, unless you like the risks of cryptocurrency, but repeating the falsities shape your own believability.
This reminds me of the need to heed the Shaikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum’s advice from the 1960s when he told a group of businessmen, “Don’t believe what you hear with your ears, go see with your own eyes.” He knew that managers were putting spin on their messages and overstating their performance, so he effectively said, get out of your office and see your projects.
This led to the leadership habit of micro-monitor without micromanaging.
When it comes to consuming news or social media, reading the headline is the equivalent of hearing with your ears. Don’t accept the headline as accurate and factual.
Read more than the headline. I don’t even accept the content as accurate until its proven to be reputable. Think about what you’re reading and ask yourself, does it make sense? Is it congruent with what else you know (or could know)?
I’m disappointed that so many people gleefully repeat what they read without ever stopping to think through it. Just because it’s in print doesn’t make it accurate. Make sure it passes the sensibility test.
What’s worse is when you allow your team members to speak opinions as if they are fact. The volume of falsities is at an all-time high given the snapshot reading of social media headlines and the lack of research rigour. I’m not proposing that you apply academic research techniques, but at least ask yourself if what you’re hearing is a fact or an opinion.
A fact is sourceable: it has a name, date, context, background and backup. An opinion is usually described in generalities. For example, everyone knows or heard (read), but they can’t describe when or where they heard (read) it.
Whenever I hear (or read) something new, I ask myself, how do they know that? And why would that point of view be accurate? I’m more concerned with understanding their path to the point of view.
Is there a source? Or is it just an opinion?
So, who should you believe? Put your trust in facts, not the manipulation of the facts that reduce them to opinions.
Dr Tommy Weir is a CEO coach and author of ‘Leadership Dubai Style’. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.