news or education?

CNN passed up a great opportunity to get people to think. It passed up a chance to educate people. But I guess that isn’t what news is for.

CNN believes that its job is to present a snapshot of society. Society does something, and CNN reports it. Society thinks something, and CNN reports it. It is not their place to judge. It is not their place to evaluate. They are the canvas and society is the paint: it is not up to CNN to decide the form that the painting eventually takes.

That’s what they believe.

Because of that belief, they passed up an amazing opportunity to educate people.

Earlier today they had a cute segment where they talked about Watson, the computer that won at Jeopardy. As one of their cute side-features, they read comments that students had written in about the story. The comments included things like, “People think biologically but computers just think with rules, so they will never be able to have new ideas or original thoughts” and “Computers can memorize facts but will never be able to have goals and achieve them.”

After reading several of the comments, the smiling anchor woman said, “Wow, those were very insightful,” and they went to commercial break.

What a tragic missed opportunity! Every person watching that television show now has been presented with the ideas “Computer will never have goals!” and “Computers will never have original thoughts!” with no challenge, no question, no response. It was “very insightful”, according to the news anchor. And we’ll have to leave it there.

These students are obviously bright, but what they need is not to be “heard”. It isn’t “news” to expose your audience to a student’s opinion without following it up with an educated response.

They need to be brought to the next level.

When a student says, “Computers just work according to rules” they need to hear, “What biological rules does your brain follow?”

When a student says “Computers will never have an original thought” they need to hear, “What do you mean by original?”

When a student says, “Computers will never have goals” they need to hear, “What exactly isĀ a goal, and how do you know if something has one?”

But that’s not how CNN functions. CNN has become the news outlet of a Twitterized world. All that matters is being able to blast an opinion to as many people as possible, and reactions and responses don’t matter. The news has become a survey of the landscape of opinions at a particular moment in time.

It’s facts without education. And it’s not what people need.

When someone opines about the current issues of the day, it isn’t enough to take a snapshot of that opinion and present it as fact: an interesting bit of trivia. “This is what some people think!”

When someone says, “computer will never have goals!” the very next thing that should be said is, “What about thermostats?”

And when the person looks confused, it should be followed up with: “Couldn’t you say that thermostats have a goal of keeping the room at a certain temperature? And that it BEHAVES in a way to achieve that goal?”

And what should follow is an entire discussion of what goals are, and how you determine if something has them, and what it means to achieve one.

What they need is an education.

But instead, each opinion is presented as a simple fact. A piece of datum. “This is what someone thinks!” And who are we to judge?

That’s what news is: News is facts.

And it is the opposite of education.

According to CNN.

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