As the 2016 presidential election rolls around the corner, the internet has been a pressure-cooker of Facebook posts, news articles and propaganda intended to either build a candidate’s reputation or tear it down. All of it — yes, all of it — is, technically speaking, “the media.”
The question of whether or not “the media” is trustworthy has been cause for debate dating back to 1972 when the Associated Press first surveyed Americans on the topic.
Nearly 45 years later, the results have substantially shifted. With a mere 32 percent of Americans stating they have a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in mass media in 2016, what accounts for the other 68 percent?
As the digital age engulfs a seemingly-larger portion of our lives every day, there is no shortage of information at our disposal.
The problem then, is discerning which of these readily-accessible-and-abundant sources can be deemed credible. The lump sum of “news” sources too often vehemently discredit the meticulous work of in-depth and accurate journalism grounded in reporting factual information and the code of ethics each reporter is expected to maintain.
Al Jazeera, for example, reports stories from a different angle than, say, Fox News. Fox News, in turn, reports stories with exponential difference to that of The New York Times or The Washington Post.
Aside from each individual news outlets’ lens, audience and scope — it is important to remember that each organization is comprised of hundreds of thousands of individual people, each maintaining their own deeply-entrenched and intrinsic personal biases.
Perhaps one of the first tell-tale signs of a “good” journalist is their ability to measure and mitigate their own approaches and attitudes to any given issue. It is only human to have a perspective on an issue. In fact, this is the crux of critical thinking; critical thinking and questioning is what makes good journalism.
To add fuel to the fire, social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat have begun to include reporting in their services — hence causing the line between credible and intrinsically-biased outlets to blur further.
In other words, the burden of responsibility in discerning what is or is not factual, accurate or biased information falls upon the shoulders of the consumer. Do not only ingest what you want to hear or read what you already believe.
What is more important is understanding who owns which company. Who puts checks in the staff’s pockets? Is a headline significant because it’s click-bait or because it’s real news? Are you reading hard news or an op-ed? (This is an op-ed, for the record.) And, perhaps most importantly, are you absorbing fact or fiction? The Onion is “media,” too — but you can’t tell me in good conscience that The Onion is the same as The Atlantic.
While many news and media outlets report with the intent to sell you a certain perspective, it must not be forgotten that there are still legitimate sources devoted to journalistic integrity.
The bottom line is individuals must consciously seek out non-partisan news outlets focused on delivering information as opposed to pushing an ulterior motive. We must not forget that journalism is not quite yet an anachronism of the past.
So all-in-all: “Can the media be trusted” is a pretty big question to tackle in and of itself. But we can start by reading in between the lines, finding sources that we trust and having a glimmer of hope that maybe, just maybe … not everything can be bought.
Shaun is a senior studying psychology. He is a fashion columnist for INK Magazine and radio host for WVCW 102.9. Shaun is really silly and loves to read good books and bad people. He’s always “fashionably” late to the after-work hang-out sessions, but always shows up with the latest tea. Shaun is passionate about feminist hip-hop, pop culture and being the center of attention. His spirit animals are Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn from the DC Comics. You can usually find Shaun playing video games at the front desk of the SMC or next at Velocity Comics.