‘Since an informed citizenry is the basis for a healthy democracy, independent, non-corporate media are more crucial today than ever before.’ ~ Dahr Jamail.
Media is an essential tool for citizens to stay informed on what events are taking place in the world, but most importantly, in their country. Media has the great power of being able to influence political beliefs, and with great power comes great responsibility. When the media has the power of shaping beliefs they are expected to report fair and accurately, but in today’s modern media, fair, accurate, and unbiased reporting is becoming harder and harder to find.Order now
The issue with media bias and partisan news is that it starts to become harder and harder to get informed about a situation or a topic without hearing someone’s opinion or their personal take on the issue. This is a growing problem for citizens, and according to a study conducted by Gallup, from 1999 to 2016, trust in the media has dropped a staggering 23%.(Swift) This chart displays the study by Gallup that shows how trust in the media is dropping at an alarming rate. (Swift)
Instead of giving you the facts of a situation and letting you form an opinion for yourself, they, the media, can choose to avoid certain details that could change your perception of a situation. When discussing controversial topics, they can change the way the viewer perceives something, like adding their personal opinions. When adding their opinions, it’s not always a direct ‘I believe’ statement, adding word choice like ‘a terrible decision’ instead of saying ‘a decision’ is a way of placing their own opinions, and it plants a seed in the viewers/readers mind on what to think and how to react to the situation. This is the problem with media bias, and is the reason as to why modern America seems to be so divided when it comes to controversial topics. People also seek out news sources that have the same political views as them. This is known as selective exposure or news-choice theories (Chapter 11). Instead of people trying to hear both sides, they listen to one side that they tend to agree with. The overlying problem with selective exposure goes back to media bias. There is nothing wrong with opinionated stories, as long as they tell you that they are giving their opinion. The problem is when they start to pass their opinion as a fact and not an opinion and fail to disclose that they are giving their opinion.
The societal impact of this issue is that people start to become cynical of the media and eventually stop paying attention to the news. People who aren’t already caught up in partisan politics start mistrusting the media, and those who are searching for the facts and truth don’t know who to trust. The problem with this is that when the media does report the truth and facts, people second guess what they hear and have doubts on what was reported. The reason why people eventually stop paying attention to the news is because they don’t want to spend too much time doing research and seeking the truth, it’s much easier to just stop paying attention to the news completely than it is to spend time searching for an unbiased news source. News sources often rush to publish breaking news stories, even if what they are reported doesn’t turn out to be true. This is due to the now instantaneous 24-hour news cycle, and plays a role in the spread of misinformation to citizens (24-Hour News Cycle).
So with all of this mistrust in the media, how should people combat the problem of media bias? While the average citizen can’t do much to combat the problem with media bias, making the average citizen become aware of media bias will help dramatically with the spreading of misreported and biased news. People who are tired of partisan networks will search for unbiased and independent news sources (Fake News).
The reason why making people aware of bias in the media will help stop the problem is because people have the power to call out media sources. When viewers are aware of a sources biased views, they can choose to stop watching that source. As more and more people stop watching a certain source, that source will then start to notice their ratings going down and they will realize that they need to address the issue and make a change or they will ultimately go out of business when they begin to not get enough viewers or readers. People want to be informed on topics, not told what to think on topics, and until the media realizes this, trust from their viewers will continue to drop as shown in the Gallup survey.
People will either stop paying attention to news completely or they will search for unbiased news organizations that are dedicated to the truth.
Some may argue that just because more people become aware of media bias, that doesn’t mean that it will help stop the spread of biased media. The media will just continue to be biased and report stuff that supports their agenda, and they won’t be affected by losing viewership. But what they don’t realize is that as people move away from watching, reading, or listening to biased sources, people will start moving to more independent sources or alternate media. A great independent source of fair and balanced reporting is Accuracy In Media (aim.org). Accuracy In Media is a great source for fair, balanced, and unbiased reporting, and they are dedicated to serving citizens as an unbiased news source.
Once the media corporations start noticing their viewership drop because of people tuning out and searching for other sources, they will realize that they will have to make a change or face the consequence of going out of business. In the article “Does 24-Hour News Coverage Provide a Valuable Service to the Public”, Muscatine stated that “Reporters no longer just report the news; they are hired as ‘experts’ and ‘consultants’ who are paid hefty fees to give their instant opinions on television.” (24-Hour News Cycle). What Muscatine is saying is that these people are being paid to report their opinions and create controversy and not the facts of the story. This is leading to a less informed populous, or at least a misinformed populous.
Bias in the media is all too common, and viewers, readers, and listeners need to be able to differentiate fact from opinion. Opinionated news is creating a misinformed populous and it is one of the leading reasons as to why people are so divided today. People need to start creating their opinions off facts and not opinionated news. People need to learn to be skeptical of sources to an extent, and they need to realize that they need to form opinions for themselves, not others. Like Dahr Jamail said, “an informed citizenry is the basis for a healthy democracy…”
- ’24-Hour News Cycle: Does 24-hour news coverage provide a valuable service to the public?’ Issues & Controversies, Infobase Learning, 31 Dec. 2003, http://icof.infobaselearning.com/recordurl.aspx?ID=1733. Accessed 31 Oct. 2018.
- “Chapter 11 .” Mass Media and American Politics, by Doris A. Graber and Johanna Dunaway, CQ Press, An Imprint of SAGE Publications, Inc., 2018, pp. 343–352.
- ‘Fake News: Does Fake News Pose a Significant Problem for Democracy?’ Issues & Controversies, Infobase Learning, 2 Mar. 2017, http://icof.infobaselearning.com/recordurl.aspx?ID=16337. Accessed 31 Oct. 2018.
- Swift, Art. “Americans’ Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low.” Gallup.com, 14 Sept. 2016, news.gallup.com/poll/195542/americans-trust-mass-media-sinks-new-low.aspx?g_source=trust%2Bin%2Bmedia&g_medium=search&g_campaign=tiles.