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Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
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When We Value Brand Loyalty Over News Content, Our Worlds Become Smaller

How to be media savvy? Sample ideas you disagree with, and be duly skeptical of celebrity journalists.

Matthew Hiltzik: One of the great things about our country and the way our Constitution was established is that we have a marketplace of ideas. That means that people can shop for those ideas that they want to hear. My hope is that more people would want to shop for a variety of products; ones that come from a lot of different suppliers, ones that have a lot of different ideas and perceptions and perspectives and facts and experiences that are shared.

But we live in a country where you're free to get whatever you want. And if you want to shop on a side where it's only one type of product that's giving you one vision, you have the right to do that and that's not for me to tell anyone not to do that. It would be unfortunate, I think, if people limit themselves because they do care and are interested in the consumption of news. I think it's really important to try to be able to search for different outlets and for different opportunities to learn more and to educate yourselves.

One of the things with our practice over the years has been working with clients who have very different political views. They weren't necessarily mine; I have clients who are way more liberal than me and I have clients who are way more conservative than me. We only work on things politically that we agree with, but we work with clients whose politics we may not, because being around people and having discussions and learning about them and appreciating and respecting the points of view that they have, is really valuable for us to understand how to reach people, how to understand things, and truthfully I think it makes us better people—a little bit—by the fact that we try it. It doesn't mean you're a bad person if you don't, but I think that the more understanding you have of your neighbor the more you have the ability to find common interests.

And if you can find those common interests then you'll have a lot more respect for the differences afterwards, and hopefully when you do go shopping you can find at least a few things on that shopping list that your neighbor, who may have different politics than you, would agree with, at least find a few things they agree with because that could then help you talk about the things you disagree with. And at least if we could start somewhere the same and then build out from there—and in order to do that you have to sometimes taste-test some things that you may not be used to tasting.

We live in an era where individuals are brands of themselves and that does not just apply to athletes or to actors, it also applies to journalists. And we've come into an era with celebrity journalists who are journalists who are more trusted, especially in days where people have questions about some things about the media. And one of the things that you've seen in the past was that people would specifically just want a story based on what publication had the story as opposed to necessarily who was going to write it. Now, because we have journalists who are more trusted, who do have Twitter followers, who do have larger influence and a way to be able to be followed potentially by others, there's going to be a consideration about that reach that goes beyond simply the outlet, it goes to the individual.

In addition, the standards that an individual reporter may have may be higher or lower than that of the publication for which they're working. In some cases the reporter, as I mentioned, is above the standards of the publication that they work for, if it's a more tabloid-type environment where the standards are a little bit different, and others where you even have the highest and most respected publications—sometimes their standards aren't exactly what you think they are, and the reporters who approach things aren't up to those standards and so you just need to be careful and consider both.

When PR strategist Matthew Hiltzik visited our video studio, he framed the world as a marketplace of ideas, and the US as a fortunate country whose citizens have a multitude of voices and perspectives—both traditional and revolutionary—to learn from. So are we exercising that luxury, or are we staying loyal to one or two key news sources that comfortably align with our worldview, even our self-identity. What is the cost of that? We may be limiting our own education and cementing arguments instead of working toward resolutions. Hiltzik suggests that there are opportunities and benefits to listening to a wide variety of news sources, even ones that present ideas you may not be accustomed to, and that doing so could help bridge the divides in modern America: "The more understanding you have of your neighbor the more you have the ability to find common interests," he says. If the world is a marketplace of ideas, buy into them carefully, Hiltzik says, but sample them broadly and skeptically, especially in an era of celebrity journalism and see-sawing journalistic standards.

Why do people believe in conspiracy theories?

Are we genetically inclined for superstition or just fearful of the truth?

Videos
  • From secret societies to faked moon landings, one thing that humanity seems to have an endless supply of is conspiracy theories. In this compilation, physicist Michio Kaku, science communicator Bill Nye, psychologist Sarah Rose Cavanagh, skeptic Michael Shermer, and actor and playwright John Cameron Mitchell consider the nature of truth and why some groups believe the things they do.
  • "I think there's a gene for superstition, a gene for hearsay, a gene for magic, a gene for magical thinking," argues Kaku. The theoretical physicist says that science goes against "natural thinking," and that the superstition gene persists because, one out of ten times, it actually worked and saved us.
  • Other theories shared include the idea of cognitive dissonance, the dangerous power of fear to inhibit critical thinking, and Hollywood's romanticization of conspiracies. Because conspiracy theories are so diverse and multifaceted, combating them has not been an easy task for science.

COVID-19 brain study to explore long-term effects of the virus

A growing body of research suggests COVID-19 can cause serious neurological problems.

Coronavirus
  • The new study seeks to track the health of 50,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19.
  • The study aims to explore whether the disease causes cognitive impairment and other conditions.
  • Recent research suggests that COVID-19 can, directly or indirectly, cause brain dysfunction, strokes, nerve damage and other neurological problems.
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Neom, Saudi Arabia's $500 billion megacity, reaches its next phase

Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.

Credit: Neom
Technology & Innovation
  • The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
  • The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
  • It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
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Better reskilling can future-proof jobs in the age of automation. Enter SkillUp's new coalition.

Coronavirus layoffs are a glimpse into our automated future. We need to build better education opportunities now so Americans can find work in the economy of tomorrow.

Image: metamorworks / Shutterstock
Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
  • Outplacement is an underperforming $5 billion dollar industry. A new non-profit coalition by SkillUp intends to disrupt it.
  • More and more Americans will be laid off in years to come due to automation. Those people need to reorient their career paths and reskill in a way that protects their long-term livelihood.
  • SkillUp brings together technology and service providers, education and training providers, hiring employers, worker outreach, and philanthropies to help people land in-demand jobs in high-growth industries.
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