In a world saturated with media, we need to toss our news into the washing machine and give it a good spin to get the stains out of our reality.

Yet, doing the wash isn't always easy. Each item requires a different spincycle. With the high concentration of images, stories, reports, and statistics, going through the laundry can be quite a task. As a college freshman soon realizes, if you throw everything into the wash at once, your end product may be more of a messthan the dirty clothes you started with.

It's time to sort. Envision the media-everything frombroadcasting television stories, magazine covers, print, or hypertext-as articles of clothing in a giant laundry hamper:text, images, stories, all scattered around, ready to get a clean rinse.

In our metaphorical world of media, factual articles and news reports can be sorted into the Permanent Press cycle. Stories that delve deep into issues are put into the Deep Clean pile. More sensitive issues of local or controversial topics are placed in Delicates. And every article eventually goes through the Final Spin.

Yet, even with these parameters for sorting, there are certain items that continue to pose a problem:

There is always the obnoxious red shirt, you know what we mean, the shirt that stubbornly bleeds its hue on your other clothes, making your whites that discolored, sickly pink. The red shirt in the news industry is the hook, the flashy, sensational story, image, or sound that you cannot help take your eyes, ears, or mind away from. Like the red shirt, it draws you in but eventually taints the rest of what you understand or experience.

Furthermore, the red shirt stands out from the other colors, often by virtue of being out of context. It has shock or sensational value through its place as an isolated phenomenon. In the media, there are endless red shirts. Marketed as "news," these elements of shock lack context. One cannot fully appropriate meaning unless an event is related to the old and is presented with factual consecutiveness and coordination with the past.

Similarly, media marketed as entertainment use the "red shirt" tactic to attract consumers. Magazines, commercials, and tabloids over the years have declaratively announced: "Cures for AIDS," "New Sex Secrets," or "Instant Weight Loss." Even if you see through them, these senseless sensations sell-and sell in vast numbers.

Have you ever wondered where all the missing socks go? The same is true in the US coverage of events. In a nation that prides itself for its freedom of speech, why has so much been withheld? Important stories such as the US illegally removing 8,000 incriminating pages from Iraq's weapons report to the UN are barely covered in mainstream media. And coverage of the Western development "tactics" employed in Latin America is more about what the US has to gain than what the country must forfeit. And yet, the word "imperialism" doesn't exactly show up in USA Today.

We always wondered if there was a creature lurking behind the dryer, removing socks with an ulterior motive. Maybe such a being exists in the mainstream press, cleverly removing stories. Why has the public been withheld from the knowledge of the US's use of depleted uranium in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and Bosnia that have resulted in cancer rates in theses areas skyrocketing since the first Gulf War?

Will these socks be forever lost? Media critic John Dewey wrote that, "Ideas that are not communicated, shared, and reborn in expression are but soliloquy, and a soliloquy is but broken and imperfect thought." We need to pair up, literally, to retrieve these missing socks. The voices, opinions, and perspective of others both inside and outside or community and nation need to be heard to combat the gaps in information available.

News is thrown at the masses today like the force of a washing machine on spin cycle. Sometimes one needs to take in an alternative spin, hear the thoughts of others, and give the multifaceted views time to soak. We aspire to give the media a clean rinse and a fresh spin.

 
Today in California, actor, marijuana connoisseur, womanizer and steroid freak, Arnold Schwarzenegger won the kookiest gubernatorial race starring the craziest cast of characters since Cannon Ball Run 2

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· Check your facts. Always look for sources, works cited, or footnotes. If information is quoted by an "expert" - look up the expert to see what their expertise consists of (if any).

· Double check your facts. Look for the same "facts" in multiple sources. But be careful to universalize a "fact" just because it has replicated itself in a variety of sources. Especially with news stories, check facts against both domestic AND international publications. The only way to counteract bias is with knowledge, ignorance only lets it grow.

o Perhaps the biggest tool to access knowledge to counteract bias accounts is through the Internet. In its current unregulated state, we can access all types of independent media organizations. They bring a variety of alternative viewpoints on mainstream issues and highlight the ramifications of issues that fail to even make the mainstream news.

o Even reading one more newspaper each morning will provide details and insight left out of the first source due to traditional time and space constraints of daily print publications.

· Know the difference between news and entertainment. (This statement appears easier said than done- example Cosmo: sometimes stories presented as "true" but must be viewed in light of entertainment, not fact.) We should be able to intelligently judge the messages received for both news and entertainment. We should be able to deliver messages in addition to receiving them. We should know how to register objection if denied coverage of our viewpoints and prevented access to professing them.

· Embrace your subjectivity. While objectivity is an admired goal, no one can fully escape the cultural lens they see (and thus interpret) events though. Realize this and acknowledge your own subjectivity both when reading other's work as well as when it's your turn to state "the facts."

· Realizing the difference between consumers vs. citizens and isolated individuals vs. engaged communities is another step to take as well. Unlike what advertisers hope to convince us of, changes cannot be made by the individual. It takes the individual finding other individuals and forming a community; what communication is all about.