Decision Making and Twisted Media Coverage

There’s a saying about the media that goes, “If it bleeds, it leads.” While this is a rather cynical view of the so-called Fourth Estate, time and again we find that some within this industry twist perceptions, and sometimes even truth, to meet their needs. A good example was this article on the CNN home page entitled 21 Colleges That Nobody Wants to Go to Anymore. Having a background in higher education, I was naturally curious.

The article explained that based on a study of data from the National Center for Education Statistics, some 200 of the 4000 four-year colleges in the US saw their application numbers decline between 2013 and 2014. These schools included Virginia Poly Tech, Amherst, Cooper Union, the United States Naval Academy, Columbia, BYU, Boston College and the United State Air Force Academy. Somehow I don’t think any of these institutions is threatened with extinction.

Bottom line? It’s not that nobody wants to go to the colleges listed. It is that they, like all institutions are subject to the vagaries of applicant desires, degree demands and the fact that some are becoming more selective in their enrollments. Next year, there will be a different list. (Consider the potential damage to reputation this misrepresentation might do to the colleges named.)

What does all this have to do with decision making? Simple – Making smart choices, about colleges or any other conundrum, requires vigilance when gathering information. Treat all information as suspect until you can verify its accuracy and the context within which it is presented. I may sound like I’m preaching to the choir. But I find myself forgetting this principle occasionally in the pressure for immediate decisions, information overload and provocative headlines. It’s just a reminder.

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