4. Ask more questions.

The following is a work in progress.

This principle goes by many names: research, reporting, homework, and many others. The more personal or important you consider the topic at hand, the more essential it becomes to follow up on the media that cover the topic.

The Web has already sparked a revolution in commerce, as potential buyers of products and services discover relatively easy ways to learn more before the sale. No one with common sense buys a car today based solely on an advertisement. We research on the Web and in other media, and arm ourselves for the confrontation with the dealer.

This extends widely. We generally recognize the folly of making any major decision about our lives based on something we read, hear, or see. But do we also recognize why we need to be more active in digging deeply ourselves to get the right answers? We need to keep reporting– sometimes in major ways, but more often in small ones–to ensure that we make good choices.

Near the end of the Cold War, President Reagan frequently used an expression, “trust but verify,” in his dealings with the Soviet Union. He didn’t invent the saying, but it was appropriate for the times. It’s just as rational an approach when evaluating the media we use today.

Next: #5 Understand and learn media techniques.

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