Finding Truth in a Sea of Spin

Shannon MooreOctober 8, 2015
Photo by Kirt Edblom

When I first heard the term "Spin Cycle", I immediately thought of my washing machine.

I was sitting in my political reporting class when my professor---the Toronto Star's political journalist Susan Delacourt---instructed me to listen to the CBC's six-part broadcast series of the same name. I had never heard the words used in relation to anything other than laundry, so I was immediately curious to learn more. Soon, I was engulfed in the world of spin and inspired to consider its relation to and impact on our current federal election.

The Spin Cycle is a common yet often dangerous trend in journalism, politics, business, and communications. In the words of Canadian writer and digital strategist Boyd Neil, "spin is the willful distortion of facts and the manipulation of half-truths to create a more persuasive or one-sided story." A public relations officer who attempts to persuade the public to agree with a specific point of view is contributing to spin. A politician who skirts around a question or who focuses on specific facts to strengthen or emphasize his or her argument is contributing to spin. A journalist who provides a biased account of an event, manipulates details in his or her reporting, or attempts to lead the audience towards a specific conclusion is contributing to spin.

The Spin Cycle is everywhere; and in Canada's coverage of the federal election, plays a large part in the political game.

But where does the public fit into this cycle? How are Canadians supposed to navigate the wealth of information that is given to them on a daily basis, and dissect the truth from often biased, incomplete, or manipulated accounts? As Election Day approaches, as we listen to the various debates, and as we consume news stories---how do we identify reality from what has been spun? How can we make informed and cognizant decisions as we prepare to cast our ballots?

There is no clear-cut or ultimate solution for escaping the inherent cycle of spin; but certain methods of consumption can help. Consider focusing your attention on the hard facts and specific details of a candidate's platform. Ask yourself what they are proposing and how they plan to achieve it. Consider the news coverage and conversation surrounding a topic, but do not let yourself drown in the sea of information that hits like a tsunami after every political debate or event. Swim beyond the realm of opinion and analysis, and focus entirely on the facts at hand.

I cannot offer a better solution than this. I'm still learning what spin truly is, and as a journalism student, am consciously searching for ways to avoid its vicious circle. But as October 19th creeps towards us, I plan to review the particulars of my chosen party's platform and cast my vote based in accuracy and truth.

If I'm conscious and mindful of the cycle of spin, I might actually be able to overcome it.


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