Oh, to go back to the days of obviously fake news. The glory days when the National Inquirer would inform us of all the aliens masquerading as celebrities or The Onion letting us know how the “CIA Realizes It’s Been Using Black Highlighters All These Years.” Nowadays, fake news seems harder to distinguish.
Traditional news sources have been lambasted by President Trump who has indicted CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS and the New York Times (among others) as “The FAKE NEWS media.” But are these sources really as false as President Trump claims? In other words, are these sources intentionally reporting lies in an attempt to hamstring the Trump administration? The answer is no. Instead, these media outlets, in addition to other news sources such as Fox News or Breitbart, are subject to the unavoidable ailment that plagues almost all news — media bias.
Bias in the media is nothing new. In fact, one could argue bias can be beneficial in crafting an informed society. A healthy media diet should be supplemented by different opinions on the same issue. Unless you understand all the intricacies, facts and opinions surrounding an issue, how are you supposed to make an informed decision about how to proceed forward? Opinions are a positive byproduct of the informed but only as long as said opinions are factually based.
The issue as of late is that traditional news sources are being criticized by individuals who disagree with the bias each source casts upon its reporting.
Those on the far right of the political spectrum proclaim outlets like CNN, MSNBC, etc. are the tool of the progressive left. To many on the right, these sources represent a “mainstream media” hell bent on ending conservatism and destroying the Republican party.
On the other hand, to many on the left, Fox News represents a more mainstream outlet for the Alt-Right and President Trump to spew hatred and bring us back to a 1960s type of American culture. In reality, Fox News is just reporting stories from a more conservative perspective, and CNN is reporting from a more liberal perspective. It doesn’t make either outlet “fake news.” It makes them “biased news.”
The “fake” versus “biased” news issue does come with a caveat. All news sources will occasionally report a story incorrectly. It happens. Humans make mistakes, and we can’t change that. However, these sources will generally correct themselves and retract the original story. While this can be frustrating, it is by no means a reason to condemn the entirety of a network’s reports. News should be viewed through the lens on individual stories, not simply the letters “CNN” or “Fox”.
When you view a story you should look at the merits of that report. Are media outlets using reliable sources? Are they using factually based evidence and data? Is the story being reported by multiple outlets? Are their multiple sides to the story? This last question might be most important. Although often times news reports can be interpreted multiple ways, it is important to know that this is not always the case.
The media is supposedly bias towards fairness, and what this means is best summarized by a quote from Aaron Sorkin’s The Newsroom: “If the entire House Republican caucus were to walk onto the floor one day and say ‘The Earth is flat,’ the headline on the New York Times the next day would read ‘Democrats and Republicans Can’t Agree on Shape of Earth.’” This is important to realize. In the same way that some issues can be viewed through multiple lenses, other issues might only have one side.
In general, media consumption should be taken with a grain of salt. Anytime you’re watching the story, try to uncover the facts from the bias. Don’t simply discredit a news source because it upsets you. Instead, actually listen to what they are saying, and do more research into whether or not it is true. Sometimes the modern world can be upsetting, but that is no excuse for remaining willfully ignorant to current events and the state of the United States.