Mainstream Media… Is any of it real?

We have entered a time when the news networks have become a regular part of the news itself. Every day, liberals are horrified by Fox News and conservatives are appalled by CNN. This makes it difficult for people to inform themselves. When it comes to the Millennial generation, a lot of older people are quick to assume many do not vote because they are lazy. In reality, I think a lot of young people in this country would vote if they had an opinion, but they are having a difficult time developing their own views due to lack of access to unbiased news coverage.

When it comes to mainstream media, people have lost sight of one incredibly important detail. None of the major news outlets are altruistic units with a noble goal to inform the masses. They are profitable entities. Each one has a target audience. Who that audience is and how the content is spun is not random. There are mathematical formulas calculating how the news should be presented to appeal to each network’s loyal viewers. I am not saying there aren’t professionals at each of these organizations with journalistic integrity, but we should be aware of the general opinions each of the networks brings to the table. The following table, put out by the Pew Research Center, is a depiction of how news stories were skewed in the 2012 election over a specific date range. The Pew Research Center is a nonpartisan fact tank, and has compiled interesting research examining media coverage and other political and global topics. The 2012 election was much less dramatic than the 2016 election but there was still division in the country. This chart depicts how varied news coverage was among the three largest cable news networks.

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So, what do we do? Should we stop watching the news? Should we avoid reading articles put out by large mainstream media entities? Should we allow our government to tell us which networks provide real vs. fake news? The answer is NO to all the above. We should continue to watch and read a variety of news sources. I personally think when reading it is easier to pick up nuanced “bias terms” and cast them off, compared to watching. When we watch the major networks, we are more likely to identify with the anchors and subconsciously give them our allegiance. For someone who has been watching Rachel Maddow or Bill O’Reilly for years, it becomes difficult to look at what they are saying subjectively. Viewers start to find themselves agreeing without stopping to think “is this really my opinion?”. Reading removes you one degree from the reporting personality, allowing you to better absorb the news itself. Many times, there are comparable stories put out by Fox and MSNBC that list the same information but add in some fun dramatic wording or name calling to skew the story to a conservative or liberal direction. Focus on the facts in the articles, not the opinion of the writer, and then use the facts to come up with your opinion.

In regards to our President informing the public which news outlets are legitimate and which are not… well, that’s just not how we do free press in the United States. All media is biased in some way. It is not appropriate for the President to praise the bias that views him in the most positive light and delegitimize the others. I hope Americans on both sides of the aisle continue to let him know that we believe this is unacceptable behavior for our nation’s leader.

Getting angry with various media outlets for their coverage is pointless. The reality is that as long as there is an audience out there looking for a certain bias, there will continue to be news produced in that way. Take your expectations off the news entities and put the responsibility on yourself to stay properly informed.

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