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Demanding truth and accepting bias

The media is not evil, contrary to popular belief. Not all reporters seek to skew the truth behind every situation. Not all news outlets purposely withhold information in order to manipulate the public, only for it to go viral in “Check out what the liberal or conservative media doesn’t want people to see” videos.

I’m a journalism major and the Editor-in-Chief of a Div. I university publication, and even I see the truth behind this stigma.

I will be the first to admit there are serious issues with the way news is reported. It’s the reason I’m entering this field: not to be like other reporters, but to change the system.

The purpose of news reporting is not telling people what to think. The purpose is to provide enough information for individuals to make their own informed decisions. A person, however, would never come to such a conclusion based on the state of modern journalism. There are reporters who will present certain information about a story only if it furthers their political beliefs, and it doesn’t matter which side of the spectrum their convictions fall.

infographicThere is a distinct dichotomy between liberal and conservative media, and it leaves citizens asking questions and feeling upset because they never receive the whole story. Sometimes, these results drive readers to take unnecessary and improper action to “solve” a situation they don’t understand, or “resolve” a problem when there isn’t one in the first place. They wonder where the truth truly stands. This is a reasonable response, and it’s easy to assume the media only cares about creating division and promoting its various political agendas.

But, like any quality news story, there is more than one side to the issue.

Citizens play a large role in the way media is presented. According to Pew Research Center, 45 percent of American adults received their news on Twitter or Facebook in 2015. Due to space restrictions and character limits, news organizations are forced to post only the headlines, with links to the real story, on social media as they fight to maintain readership and engagement.

But studies by Chartbeat, an online attention analysis company, show there is no correlation between the number of people who share or tweet articles and the number of times the content is read. This means an article could be tweeted a million times and only be read in-depth by 20 percent of the people who originally saw the link.

On average, Americans watch or read only 25 percent of content within one post before sharing or commenting, and only 25 percent of people watch or read content in its entirety. If people aren’t willing to take the time to read to the end of an article, they can’t be certain they’ve received all the available information, allowing them to get a better understanding of the story.

Readers demand truth from the media, but a study by Barna shows only 34 percent of American adults even believe in the concept of absolute truth. If 66 percent of the American population believes truth is relative, how can a reporter be criticized for sharing “their version” of the truth?

Many people get their primary news information from sources they deem to share their own beliefs.

According to another study by Pew Research Center, 47 percent of conservatives cite Fox News as their primary source for government and political news, and 15 percent and 13 percent of liberals choose CNN and MSNBC, respectively.

The audience of each outlet does not tend to seek information from other sources either. Forty-six percent of Fox’s viewership comes from those who consistently identify as conservative. Forty-eight percent of MSNBC’s viewership comes from those who consistently identify as liberal. Both outlets only bring in approximately 18 percent of the opposing side. In general, only those who hold mixed or independent views opted to seek information from both sources, comprising 35 percent of each source’s audience.

All journalists should seek to present all sides in a story, but it doesn’t always happen. In order to have well-rounded views on an issue, people should be willing to consistently pursue knowledge and insight from multiple sources.

While there are reporters who don’t seek to be unbiased in what they do, readers have to examine their actions. Regardless of whether it wants to admit it or not, the American populace is just as responsible for the state of modern journalism as those who work for it.

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