Challenge yourself to take in differing viewpoints

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Posted 1/31/17 (Tue)

Whines & Roses
By Cecile Wehrman

Here’s a challenge: Instead of waking up each morning, grabbing your phone and scrolling through a news feed that shows you what your friends say about Donald Trump, the state of the country or the latest cute animal video, seek out at least one viewpoint each day you’re pretty sure is different than yours.
I’ve mostly held my tongue and my outrage about numerous Trump administration policies I don’t agree with. I take personally the indictment that news reporters as a profession are the most dishonest people in the world. Fortunately, dissing a whole profession doesn’t make it so. 
And I can laugh along with everyone else when someone, in good fun, posts a minor error on Facebook and declares “Fake News From The Journal.” You can see the correction for that whopper, at left, I mean, right. Does anybody buy my alternative facts excuse?
But instead of railing against policies or statements I disagree with, I’m going to force myself outside of my comfort zone, expose myself to ideas I don’t necessarily agree with, then decide for myself what is reasonable, verifiable and truthful. I challenge every Trump supporter to do the same.
I started my campaign about 10 days ago, by making a point of tuning into Fox News. Not that I’ve never watched Fox News in the past, but everyone knows Fox News has a more conservative (Republican) bent, while CNN (referred to by conservative commentator Sean Hannity as the Clinton News Network) has a liberal bent.
Next, instead of getting my daily dose of pop music from a Canadian radio station each morning as I prepare myself for the day, I turned the dial over to the local National Public Radio (NPR) station to get more broad exposure to news, not just from the United States, but from around the world.
The topics and the facts, by the way, from both Fox and NPR were nearly identical.
Then, instead of listening to my favorite mix of tunes while making several round trips to Tioga last week, I put my van’s radio on KTGO 1090, to see what sorts of issues were being discussed there. At another point, I tuned over to 660 KEYZ to listen to Joel Heitkamp’s show.
I also made a point, during the week, to check the source of every salacious Facebook post either for or against Donald Trump, so that, before I took in a single word of whatever viewpoint was being espoused, I could read it with knowledge of the likely aim. Was it an op-ed or a news article giving multiple sides of an issue?
Having done so, I can tell you there were times, as I was listening to media outside of my political comfort zone, that were akin to nails on chalkboard. But guess what? The same was true for some statements I heard on NPR. 
The discomfort, when taking in information from any source, comes not so much from disagreeing with an opinion, but from the tone and subtext when a broadcast veers from factual reporting into opinion or commentary. You can feel this in your gut. Pay attention to that feeling!
It’s at that point, when your blood begins to boil, that you need to recognize what you are listening to may not be entirely factual. And whether you feel that feeling listening to your preferred brand of media or not, it’s good for you to have your reality challenged.
As I read in one op-ed in recent days, the press, “...when properly performing . . . are truth seekers rather than ego-strokers. The press may sometimes get things wrong, but it most often gets them right. A truly independent press is not stocked with political acolytes but political adversaries.”
It’s been said that we live in a “post truth” era. To me, as a journalist, this is the most concerning issue we face as a nation. The truth is the truth, but how much time are we willing to spend seeking it out? To listen to views different than our own? To take in actual facts, data and photographs and make our own decisions? Are we capable, when faced with biased information from our preferred media brand, of admitting it?
I got a kick out of a complaint I saw on Facebook last week that “even Fox News” was being critical of the president. Guess what? That’s their job. They report. You decide.