The Case for AllSides: John Gable, Samantha Shireman
A listener to last week shows send us an email praising you jim for your sensible centrist views and he implied i think to his disapproval that. I'm the liberal. And there i was thinking. I was the sensible one and you were the right wing. Not it's just all a matter of perspective. Richard speaking of reality in perspective or the lack of this week's show is on media bias. Disinformation and fake news. The case for all sides with john gabel and samantha sharman for the most part media outlets are funded by advertisements. Right and advertisements require lakes. And what's going to get. Clicks is fear and anger. Our show is about fixes. Yeah how to make the world a better place. How do we fix it. Ever since we launched. How do we fix it. We've been talking about filter bubbles and it seems like they've gotten worse out there it's so important to get out of that everybody says it. But how do you do it. It's more than that jim. Some information that people read is just fake or linked to wild conspiracy. And we're going to talk about that. I we're take a close look at all. Sides dot com. This is a tool to help. People see the world from different perspectives. They don't normally get within their social bubbles and filter bubbles. This is what's cool about it. Take a new story and they find a source on the left on the right and in the center and they show you what all three of those sources said about the same story. We're joined in a remote studio today by all sides founder and ceo. John gabel who i spoke with four years ago on. How do we fix it as well. As the site's director of product samantha sherman. Welcome to how do we fix it for having us so give us the elevator pitched on. Why should i go to your site for news. All sides kind of speaks to its name. We show the latest news breaking news and any issue or topic from the left center and right the whole point is that people can immediately see different perspectives. Any new story any connect with other people on that story. They wanted unlike jim. Eileen left so my natural sources of information are probably npr in the new york times washington. Post gyms may be different from me. What do i get out of going. All sides that. I don't from say mainstream media. The more enlightened reason would be to get a broader understanding of the issues a. It's you're not going to have the best understanding of an issue if you're never challenged in your views so getting a getting an understanding of how different people are viewing. This and getting that balance news is a way to strengthen your your knowledge. I'm sure there are people who come to all sides for the perhaps less inside in light reason of know thy enemy right if you are considering yourself in a fight against these these other forces that wants to do harm to the country Then you might as well know where they're coming from and understand what they're talking about and maybe that's not so bad. I mean i think real weakness of a lot of people is that they never hear the other side of their own of their viewpoints. And so they'd they'd be able to make the strongest argument or see the weaknesses in their position. One example of that specifically that out sticks in my mind in particular is the whole question about protests versus riots and there was a study done where it had ninety. Three percent of all of these demonstrations were peaceful. And then you had all the left media saying look it's all peaceful. It's all peaceful. It's all peaceful. Then you had people on the right. Saying seven percent did have violence in that added up to over two hundred twenty something instances violence and is that a problem and of course they only emphasize that when you saw it on our site you stop both perspectives. Now i'm fascinated about how you decide to make your ratings on bias and one example which which came recently as you had a vigorous discussion at all signs. Didn't you john about whether to call. Joe biden president elect yet that was particularly interesting. One and one of the toughest ones we've had because there is a technical definition of president-elect when the electors votes have been counted and then there's the kind of wet has been doing for many many many years where he just say hey once it's projected winner We call on the president elect. The question for us was are we making are we. All sides making a determination as to the result of lawsuits. Which i which. In my opinion they will not add that. I don't see how they could possibly add up to any change but is it our role to decide that with court cases pending and also When we think about the technical definition is the historical approach adjust accepting mainstream media or big media that can actually do polls their result as the literal answer and then there was a third piece. We realized he said if we shows projected winner we actually do a little bit of Education about our system and so it was a tough decision of ours but we decided that the decision that called for the least assumptions in our part that also the benefit of democracy knowledge or republic understanding amongst users using projected winner was the best there but it was it was not unanimous and it was a tough call franklin. So you call you call. Joe biden the projected winner rather than president-elect we do but we also most of our content is other websites so what other websites say president-elect week. Don't count that or try to hide that or anything like that just in our own personal sufferings when we write it we decided to use the term projected winner for now. I'm really intrigued by. And i love this concept of of looking stories finding a good outlet from the left the right and the centre and i can say the the choices you make on the right are they tend to be the more reliable responsible Outlets you're not going to really wacky Fringe sites for the most part. But but how do you find people in the center. It's getting harder and harder. It is getting harder and harder our audience. Actually we did a survey as there are audience and it came out. Twenty nine percent from the last twenty nine percent from the right and forty two percent from the center is the way the audience saw themselves so we have a nice balance at our audience. Certainly fits their so. Finding people in the centre stotthard hard. Finding news organizations consider center is more challenging. What we found is that because we do blind by survey so we actually show people the news without them knowing the source and every time we do the wall street journal new section. That comes right down the middle every time they seem to be the most reliable center news reporting their their opinion is right but there there. I frankly really impressed with them and others as well who do a good job so far we've been talking about maya's but how do you deal with outright misinformation and conspiracy theories which seemed to be gaining broader currency especially on social media. First of all are generally doesn't come up for us that much because we tend to cover national news. That's getting national attention. Either from left center rights so we we tend to reflect the bigger news items however when a conspiracy theory gets big enough that it's become so mainstream we don't shy away from it. We cover it as well as cover the opposite side. That's saying this is. It's spiracy theory and how it's wrong. The best way to energize conspiracy theory is to never talk about it. We reveal the arguments that it's conspiracy or or back and forth so people can decide for themselves. That's actually our ultimate focus is to empower our readers to really decide for themselves and understanding brought pitcher. That that's something i think is just so important. I've actually spent a big chunk of my career debunking conspiracy theories especially the nine eleven conspiracy theories at a time when no one in the mainstream press was even acknowledging that they existed even though they were spreading kind of underground Very very powerfully. Jim just just to just to go back on that. The nine eleven conspiracy theory because you did a tremendous amount of work on this. What were the conspiracy theorists saying about what happened on nine eleven when you dug down through all the layers they were saying all conspiracy theories there s tend to say the jews did it. I mean that that's really where it often wound up and interestingly this stuff was mostly coming in from the left back then today we think a lot about conspiracy theories on the right basically the bush and some kabbal involving massad and the cia and my publishing company. I mean because once you publish about it you're part of the conspiracy. But what i was encouraged by was there was still a group. Of course they were the hardcore nuts out there but there was a group of people who were just naturally curious naturally skeptical and they were kinda relieved to see somebody digging in answering their questions. I think that's a huge important thing that we cannot overlook that information is out there and if we don't address it gets pulled away and if we only trust by their one hundred percent wrong. That's a problem as well. So there is a lot of that going on with conspiracy theories or allegations of voter fraud right now and so we frequently see in the new saying there's no evidence of voter fraud at all and there's actually a lot of evidence of small examples of voter fraud and when you take the extreme counter side you lose credibility and i actually see voting as sacred thing So whether people are being prevented from voting or being canceled out by even one illegal vote that actually bothers me to irrational state to be quite honest about it but we can describe how they don't add up to enough to change the election. We describe which parts of the lawsuit are valid. Which ones there's just kind of ridiculous but if we go through that we basically say hey readers we believe you're capable of deciding for yourself that we don't have to over simplify things one side or the other and that's what it really comes down to. A democratic republic needs to come down to rather than people just telling everybody else how to trust us samantha. John's been talking lot manta thoughts on this man. It's tricky balance because once misinformation has gotten to a person it's impossible to remove that from their brain if someone receives misinformation especially from a trusted source which was happening constantly on social media. Right now right. They're getting misinformation from their friends and family from people within their own sphere And they read. That and their their defenses are down when it's coming from somebody that they trust and so they are very quickly going to believe it. What john said is absolutely correct of one of the best ways you can. Fuel a conspiracy theory is to attempt to censor it. Because then you're you're kind of playing into their hand of see. They don't want us talking about that. They are suppressing the truth. You're listening to. How do we fix it. With samantha. sharman and john gable of the site all sides dot com. i'm richard davies. And i'm jim megs you look tired. I take it the caffeine toothpaste and adrenaline face serum aren't working. Well maybe you should ask santa for a nectar mattress this year. And if the big guy brings you another unicorn finger. Puppet don't worry because mattresses starting at just four hundred ninety nine dollars and she gets three hundred ninety nine dollars in accessories thrown in as well as at three hundred sixty five night home trial and a forever warranty go to nectar sleep dot com today now back to our interview for a lot of people biased just automatically a bad thing. You know it means. You're you're distorting information somehow but you say everyone has bias yes and we all are biased by what we know by what we don't know and our entire life experience and i don't think biases necessarily bad. The other extreme is is that we have no opinions. No no history No judgment the key is to let people know where the information is coming from at. Give them that broader perspective and we use bias as a way to do that not as a way to point fingers at each other going nian yanyan. Yeah but as a shortcut for revealing different points of view and different ways of looking at the same thing. When jim and i were talking about doing this podcast Jim made a fascinating point. That i really hadn't thought about and that is. Is there such a thing as good bias. In other words sites. That are clear that they're coming from say a liberal perspective or a conservative perspective and are up front with with their readers. I don't know if i would consider it good bias versus bad bias. But i think bias is a fact of life and the best thing you can possibly do a about it is to be transparent about it and so i absolutely respect organizations that are transparent about their bias. Used to say hidden by is a problem. Yes or if somebody that they hide intentionally or other. People are not aware of the bias that leads to misunderstanding. And and that's the problem and that's what we that's why we are very transparent in really the best weekend and i think a lot of the time it's when when it's hidden bias. It's not malicious at all. It's they don't understand their own biases not a standing that we tend to discuss. And sometimes it's just what stories they thinker interesting enough to cover not necessarily how they cover them. Yeah and story. Choice is a bet a lot of times when we have a when we have media outlet that we are doing editorial reviewer. Something is custody and we're trying to figure out where they land one of the trickiest ones to deal with is story choice because you can have articles that are written in a completely center sort of way and yet if you look at all of those stories it's like these are all to do with topics that really resonate with a right or the left. I think that's something that's been raised by black lives matter movement. I think media organizations have not considered the views of marginalized people say people of color or lgbtq or indigenous folks from the other perspective. I think that liberal sites simply do not understand business. They don't understand the profit motive and businesses contribute to communities into the country or religious groups as well I'd say that a lot of Left-leaning media skips that we have been talking and working great deal inside of all sides to deal with what we call or bits and win. Any group has one day thing. That's really big. That's not being covered. We're actually seeking to bring that to the forefront. What's changed in the years since all sides launched so. I guess i had to answer that. I've been here longer than sam has. Yeah you can answer it for all sides. I don't know how broad that question was. A of things have changed. So where i'm going with. This is what's changing the world because all sides isn't just a an organization that helps you get to a diversity of news sources. It also monitors all these news sources and how users interact with news. What's happened to the media. What's happened to the audience. In the years. Since all sides launched in two ways particularly first of all we talk about effective polarization rather than his general polarization so effective polarization is. I am against it because you against you and anything you stand for and therefore against that has definitely grown and we think that's the problem with polarization. Having people disagrees not necessarily a bad thing. yeah it becomes. I dislike you because you believe this as opposed to we believe different things. And let's have a debate about our our our differences of opinion. Even if those differences of opinion are strong You can still have a very healthy democracy with political polarization when it becomes affect of polarization that leads to anger. That fear and that anger leads to the humanization And dehumanisation is essentially what humans need to do to trick their brain into allowing them to do harm to another person. We're talking about news right. We're talking about providing bounce information about the news but these are these are real issues that if left unchecked can take us down a really dangerous. Pass you certainly see that on twitter every day you really do and man. I wish people would get off twitter because it is actively harmful to human empathy. So what about the news. What about how i mean. I feel like. I've seen a change in the new york times just in the last two or three years. How are they doing we to measure that we do watch that and that has changed in fact. We were calling cnn as an example. Because we were. Just look at the webpage not the the site. Not the tv program. We were calling them for a while and two am getting criticized calling their news center for a while but they definitely shift. They definitely shift in her clearly. Lean left even on their website. When it's just the stories that you see that you re new york times Has moved to the left as well. We've seen lots of changes in the feedback. We get from people in our sides say tend to be going to the tribes. They tend to becoming more extreme. They tend to be resulting to. They're all reacting to their own filter bubbles where they only see one side or the other and to the polarization. Defective polarization samantha's talking. 'bout i think leads to more extreme journalism in general in the case of the new york times being anti-trump has been great for their business model. They've hugely increased their circulation and fox news. Being pro trump has been good for their business model. So much of the past four years has been about trump. Is there a possibility that in the next four years. Maybe they'll be a slight return to the center by some media outlets or am. I just being mr optimistic again. Well i want to speak to the business model of it. So for the most part media outlets are funded by advertisements and advertisements require clicks. And what's going to get. Clicks is fear and anger And so it is ingrained in the current business model that you are going to make the most money if you can polarize people because that is what is going to make them afraid an angry. Speaking of fear and anger the debate over cancel culture fires up both conservatives and liberals where do you come down samantha. I think this is really a case. Where both sides have a have a really good point on the right. You have a lot of people upset about censorship and you have a lot of people upset about the what seems like a shrinking of the circle of information that is acceptable speech And on the left. And i think and i think to a certain extent that is that is a fair point People do have to be more careful about how they say. Things now Than they once did. I don't think that's entirely a bad thing. I think historically the loudest voices have been predominantly white straight at mail and now this is one of the benefits of of twitter. One of the benefits of social media and the internet in general is more people are able to find a platform. We're hearing more voices and so the voices that historically have been silenced by larger media people of color people within the community women. Those voices are able to be louder and for the first time people are able to say. Hey what you're saying is actually not okay. What you're saying is actually harmful and if you are in a position where his where you have been able to comfortably say whatever you want and not think that it's hurting other people and suddenly people are saying actually what you're saying is not okay that can feel like suppression. It's not it is a a lifting of the other voices. I do think that can be taken too far. So i think it's an important journey that we're taking right now. Where people are speaking out against voices that have harmed them and opinions that have been harmful. What i don't think is acceptable. Is someone saying one vaguely insensitive thing on twitter and having their careers ruined. I think the the response to that should be communication. Not let's destroy your life. Because i found this one offensive thing that you did ten years ago so a question. We ask almost everyone john. We've just gone through this wrenching election. Are you optimistic or do you see a corner. We could be turning up ahead. Are we rounding the curve. Anybody's had a friend or loved one that's dealt with addiction. They would recognize that those terrible moments bottoming out are actually good news because you have to be aware of the problem and get in a pretty bad place before it can get better. When all sides was knew i'd had to spend all sorts of time explaining to people the dangers and problems have polarization and effective polarization. How is destroying our country and how readers wanted something else in how terrible this was and i had to spend all my i like most of my talking with them about their reality now when i talk to potential investors or people. I don't have to spend any time on that at all so the good thing that's coming out of this is that people are recognizing that there is a problem in society that people are divided in different tribes. There is a problem with the news flow online. I'm not just talking about mainstream news media but twitter and even a google which tends to promote the most popular point of view ignores all the rest so we become confidently ignorant by seeing one point eight hundred times not seeing any other points to the. There is a fundamental problem in the information flow online in society in general and in our relationships with each other and now that we know the problem we could do something about it and the great thing people recognize that people are fed up. We see people changing way. They get their information. So pew research did a survey A while ago that asked people can use today want and two years before they did that. Survey sixty three percent of the people said they prefer news. That didn't have a slant one way or the other they're more. Recent survey jumped to seventy eight percent of people wanting news. That didn't have a certain slant. That's dramatic shift in a very short period of time and that's just one of many things are growth over the last nine months we grew ten times faster than the rest of the news industry And we're certainly proud of our success. Our success had more to do with the fact that people are shifting to what they're looking for they're shifting to look for different kinds of news because they know that what they currently getting isn't doing the job. Okay thank you very much. Both of you eight. He's you so much for having us this. This is really fun this is how do we fix it. With john. gable. In samantha sherman of all sides dot com. What a great conversation with two people are sort of in our tribe. Richard people who are trying to promote better discussions better understanding across the political spectrum. It's that time of the show where we do our recommendations what have you got for us a paragon by irish writer colum mccann. I thought this was a good choice for this week. Because we've been talking about the way. Different sides In controversial issues covered and this book which is a novel tells the story of two fathers one palestinian one israeli who've both lost their young daughters The conflict between palestine israel both men rami and assam attempt to use their grief as a weapon for peace. I love this book parts of it. I like poetry and yet but some rami are both real men and another words. This is a book. That's a merger between fiction and nonfiction highly recommended a paragon by colum. Mccann it sounds like a paragon but it's actually spelled. Api our own g. n. I never would have known how to pronounce that up just by reading it. Well maybe i pronounced an. But i think that's what it is and now it's on to our conversation but before we get there a happy thanksgiving to all of our listeners. We won't be releasing a show over the holidays but will return on december fourth. Jim you have some thoughts about our interview with john. And samantha and an example of how all sides dot com works as we record this one of the big issues. A trump's been repeating some stuff that came bubble out some far right conspiracy theory about this company. Dominion voting systems and supposedly their systems have automatically switching votes away from trump and towards biden. And you know everybody's first reaction says. Wow that's crazy conspiracy theory because it is. I mean there's no evidence of this. So what is the right. Say about this. So all sides found an article from washington examiner which is a small conservative paper. They come up with the case. That in two thousand eighteen a bunch of politicians on the left including elizabeth warren and amy klobuchar were accusing the same voting company dominion of having technology that might swap votes. It doesn't make the conservatives right to realize we don't want to fly off the handle with every accusation and if there's any truth at all to the idea these computer systems might be defective or might be hackel. Let's look into it. I'm actually writing art about that right now. It doesn't mean it's happened but if it could happen. It's definitely worth looking into and finding a way to defend against. Yeah i agree with everything you've said. Jim and i was surprised by the dominion story as well i didn't realize until i read all sides that this was a problem more than for the right until the twenty twenty election came along. It's how do we fix it. I'm richard davies. And i'm jim. Eggs and our producer is miranda shaffer where production of davies content. We make podcasts. For companies and nonprofits our website at davies content is davies content dot com. Thanks for listening. This podcast is part of the democracy group looking for a new podcast to listen to. 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