The State of the News Media

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By: Borna Hlousek

Note: The below content is the opinion of the author alone and should therefore not in any way, shape, or form be construed as the opinion of The Political Student’s editorial staff.

I loath what are the News and Media world have become.

It used to be that the nightly newscast was a tool that informed and propagated debates worthy of a great nation. However, since the commercialization of the news and the rise of political gossip, voyeurism and speaking lies has drastically increased. For example, Conservatives went to FOX, Liberals to MSNBC, informed citizens to Comedy Central, and CNN just became a commercial whale.

Perusing the front pages of these websites supposed international coverage garners reports on things like Kim Jong Un’s uncle being removed from power, and which world leaders will converge in South Africa for Mandela’s funeral (NBC), photos of queen Elizabeth and the Pope’s head on a coin (CNN), and an American vet detainee- hotel room NK (Fox) and anti government protesters topple statue in Ukraine. These stories are not going to be relevant for more than a day, if even that. Putting them on the front pages of international news sections gives the stories more weight than they deserve.

Any of these stories actually do the job of the NEWS? Really to inform its readers of world events and to keep them so that they can make informed and factual decisions when it comes time to vote. In addition, most of the people that News organizations hire tend to be political pundits, and demagogues, speaking out and down to their viewers, and playing to the viewers fear of their opponents. Turning to Fox, CNN or MSNBC becomes a chore and an assault on our sense of dignity in the process of politicalization.

Research published in the September issue of Political Research Quarterly (2012) has found pundits on political opinion shows influence attitudes toward presidential candidates — and in a way that is entirely negative. “An increasing number of Americans engage in selective exposure to ideologically consistent news sources. This fact has caused some scholars and pundits to worry that partisan news sources such as Fox News are making their audiences more polarized,” Glen Smith of the University of North Georgia and Kathleen Searles of Augusta State University wrote in their study.

The researchers found Fox News viewers became more favorable of McCain and less favorable of Obama over the course of the 2008 presidential election. Both Fox’s news programs and opinion shows made viewers more favorable of McCain and less favorable of Obama, but the effect was stronger for those who watched the opinion shows. The study also found MSNBC’s opinion shows had the converse effect, viewers became more favorable of Obama and less favorable of McCain. But watching Fox News opinion shows had little impact on how viewers perceived McCain’s ideology, and watching MSNBC opinion shows had little impact on how viewers perceived Obama’s ideology.

The study suggests that “viewers’’ attitudes are shaped predominantly by vitriolic coverage of the opposition” wrote Smith and Searles. “Rather than viewers consuming news from a source that confirms their support for their in-party candidate, viewers are consuming news from a source that seems to confirm their distaste for the opposition. The result is not only more polarized partisans but also partisans who are polarized because they hate the other side rather than because they are card-carrying supporters of their side.”

If a large segment of the base of either party believes the president is ideologically extreme, they are likely to attach that extreme label to any policies the president supports.This just reinforces gridlock.

But it wasn’t always like this. There used to be a time, before the invention of the internet and advancement in technology. The media cared about accuracy and prided themselves not on who was the first to report on a story, but on who reported on it the best. And it can return, all it takes is a little bit of time and effort from each and everyone of you. Stop watching reality TV, don’t buy commercial endorsed products, and most importantly take an active role in your politicization, and learn to grow yourself so that you can understand the issues that face us all. If that happens, you can voice your displeasure and satisfaction, and perhaps, the media moguls will change to fit what we want. Real talk, serious news interpretation and evaluation. Not some Glenn Beck style conspiracy theorist. If we can fix the news, maybe we can actually turn the country around, one bit at a time.

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