What Media Doesn’t Tell You

tvlie

Illustration by Sae Takeuchi

By JoonYoung Yoo, News Writer

By giving out biased facts, mainstream media fails to fulfill its purpose. The purpose of mainstream media is to provide unbiased facts to its audience and allow them to think about the issue. However, media greatly influences its audience through its hidden bias found in writing, visual imagery, and headlines.

Just by reading the above introduction, you probably think this article is very ironic simply by the fact that I’m criticizing media through media. However, the point of this article is to inform readers about how influential media can be and how important it is for readers to be aware of their role a media literate member of society.

To highlight how influential media can be I reference the past U.S. Presidential election and current Presidency of Donald Trump. My primary source to support the presence of media bias is the book, The Irony of Democracy: An Uncommon Introduction to American Politics by Thomas R. Dye, Harmon Zeigler, and Louis Schubert.

During the 2016 presidential election in the U.S., many media sources criticized Donald Trump on tweets instead of focusing on the politics itself. Media outlets such as Washington Post and the New York Times, continuously criticized Donald Trump. Even Washington Post released the below poll in a Sept. 20 Analysis article by John Slides titled: Is the media biased toward Clinton or Trump? Here is some actual hard data.

On the other hand, I noticed there weren’t as many articles online that criticized Hillary Clinton despite her decisions in the Middle East, which was under investigation for causing the death of thousands of individuals, and included federal-level security breaches. I personally thought that mainstream media seemed to turn a blind eye on how Hillary Clinton constantly changed her opinion and lacked the ability as a leader to convince people to follow her policies.  

The danger of mainstream media is they tend to act as a propaganda machine for those who support their beliefs be it liberal or conservative. Instead of telling people what they need to know, they tell people what will sell news. Bad news sells as was demonstrated when media delivered focused news about weapons of mass destruction and foreign dictators, rather than media about increasing debt, student loans, and the widening gap of income inequality between the upper and middle class. Media chose to focus on weapons of mass destruction and foreign dictators because media chooses events that are “more bizarre, dramatic, and sensational” (Schubert, Dye, and Zeigler, 108).   

One way of identifying bias in media is through headline investigation and observation of article type. For example, what you are reading right now is an editorial, purely based on my opinion, as such you can take my thoughts or leave them. However, if it is a reliable news source, written by a journalist for the pure intent to inform and not sway, supported by facts, then most likely you can trust it. Nonetheless, even if it meets all the checked criteria, it doesn’t mean it is not biased, which is why I wrote “most likely” you can trust the article. Take a look at this headline by NBC news: Donald Trump Isn’t Mentally Ill. He’s Just Unpleasant, Psychiatrist Says. Clearly this is an article meant to sway readers into believing this man is emotionally unwell for being in Office, yet it is only the voice of one psychiatrist.  

Now what can you take away from this, media cannot be completely unbiased, it is impossible to do so.  However, there should a limit on how much bias media can put into their writing or reporting. If we put too much bias into our writing and don’t put a complete story with facts and diverse sources, media will lose trust from the public.

Moving on, of all types of news which media outlets love it is big news, because big news sells, and usually big news is bad news. Which is why when we turn on the television of open the paper or click to our favorite online media outlet, the first articles we typically see and read have an ounce of negativity in them. To elaborate, bad news focuses on issues such as “dramatic and sensational, scandals, rip-offs, violent crimes, threatening budget cuts, sexual deviance, environmental scares” (Schubert, Dye, and Zeigler, 128). Since dramatically negative issues attract the most audience, news tends to ignore or dramatize with bias on underscoring or burying issues that are complex or riddled with fluff (positivity). This can be an issue because media is being selective about what news to report on and it can have negative effects on society.

Since News tends to focus mostly on negative issues, people can “lose trust and confidence in government and its institutions” (Schubert, Dye, and Zeigler, 129). People can also feel “distrust, powerlessness, and disaffection stemming from television’s [or media] emphasis on the negative in politics” (Schubert, Dye, and Zeigler, 130).    

In conclusion, it is my belief that media fails to fulfill its purpose of delivering news objectively. According to Matthew A. Baum of Harvard Kennedy School and Yuri M. Zhukov of the University of Michigan, although media is not under governmental control in the U.S. thanks to the protection of the First Amendment in the U.S. Constitution, it still has “its own institutional biases — such as newsworthiness criteria that emphasize novelty, conflict, proximity, and drama.” The greatest negative impact this holds is that it can overlook crimes, rebellions, and more!

Another thing to take note before you close this article is that articles do not always contain false information. Although, media can over dramatize issues by giving false information, not all information is false and bias. An article I would recommend checking out is How to tell fake news from real news by Laura McClure on the Ted-Ed Blog.

 

Reference

Dye, Thomas R., L. Harmon Zeigler, and Louis Schubert. The irony of Democracy: An Uncommon Introduction to American Politics. Boston, MA: Wadsworth, 2012. Print.

 

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