I wish I could explain to you in one paragraph how to tell the difference between a solid piece of media and something you can wipe yourself with, but it's not that easy. As with any skill that can be measured and evaluated, the really good writers in America are in a 5-10% range, and then there are a lot of mediocre writers. And at the far end of the scale are the really despicable, egregious impostors like Limbaugh, Hannity, Beck.
If I had to divide everything into two groups, it would be writing that is clearly, honestly created to explain and inform, and other stuff that is intended only to arouse, and I don't mean that in a sexual sense. Yes, there is writing that calls men to action that is legitimate in nature, but most of what we're seeing these days is tinfoil hat crap.
Here is a contrasting example. First, Joshua Holland, senior digital producer for BillMoyers.com on "Cops, Gun Culture and Anti-Government Extremism."
Holland writes,"Because there are so many guns out there, police officers are trained to live in fear of the very people they are supposed to protect and serve. Anytime a police officer pulls over a car, he or she must worry that the person inside that car will have a gun that could be turned on them. The U.S. features a unique and toxic mix of gun culture and militant anti-governmentalism. As a result, police officers aren't entirely wrong to believe that they're operating in a potential combat zone. No other police force in a functional democracy has experienced something like the Bundy Ranch standoff in Nevada, where federal agents found themselves outgunned by heavily-armed militias…"
Then, you have the fear-mongering style of writing, like "The Rise of Robocop" from Huffington Post. "If you outfit police as soldiers their outlook changes. They cease to see the people in their communities as those they have vowed to protect and serve…"
Or, an article at Salon.com that claims,"When a person wears clothing that carries some symbolic meaning, the clothing 'primes' people to act consistently with the way the person is dressed."
Or a Fox news feature, where an activist says,"Don't trust the police."
Or Glen Beck saying,"We are moving towards a society where the authoritarian with the uniform gets away with murder, gets away with anything they want to say."
And when you say or prints things like that, what you do is play right into the fear, the mistrust, right into the hands of people like the Bundy Ranch militias, who think they can take the law into their hands.
C'mon, people. Let's get real here for a second. Today, you can see videos that use fear and mistrust to advertise weapons in the same way that we use sex to sell perfume or sports cars.
I could go on with more clear examples of legitimate writing vs crap, but the point is, a truly intelligent, mature person understands what I’m talking about, and those who are given to more knee-jerk reaction, will deny it.
Sorry if this sounds elitist: you don’t have to have a college degree in literature to identify good writing from bad, but it sure helps.
Your homework assignment: Google yellow journalism