In this current day and age one can access virtually anything with the help of the internet. This power to infinite knowledge facilitates our access to information (within this context, namely to national news) as technology has allowed a broad array of news stories to become more immediately accessible than ever before. A 2016 Pews Research Center survey, titled “Pathways to News” noted that 81 percent of adults ever get news on online platforms. The survey further stated that 57 percent of U.S. adults often get TV-based news. Regardless of the means of gathering information, it is evident that the majority of Americans get information from technology. However, there are many perils to this stylistic evolution of news coverage that threaten the viewers’ ability to obtain credible and unbiased information. This is important because information, which one largely obtains from the media, serves as the basis of people make decisions and perceive reality. Therefore, when reading news, it is imperative to check sources and understand any biases that may swayed the writer from framing the story in a certain direction. With the abundance of information, all from different news outlets, different journalists, and different perspectives, this task can be difficult and overwhelming. Here are a view tips to aid you in your journey of news gathering so you do not fall victim to the bustling industry.
First and foremost, it is important to understand the underlying objectives of many news companies. Journalists traditionally worked to objectively report and investigate events, acting as beacons of democracy and of free speech. Though many journalists continue to uphold these values, the majority of news companies have transitioned their story coverage to feature commentary news as a result of economic incentives. In “Mass Media and American Politics,” Doris Graber defines commentary news as the stylistic changing in news that focuses more on stories of greater urgency that are intended to invoke an emotional response; for example stories of conflict/violence or entertainment. This style of relaying information affects the public’s understanding of events based on how stories are presented and conveyed to the public.
Tip to determine whether or not information has been distorted by commentary news: Check Perspecs News.
Perspecs News is an application that offers three different perspectives on the story; featuring a liberal-leaning story, a neutral/background story, and a more conservative oriented story. This variety in framing the same story allows viewers to see how commentary news and framing can distort the truth and cause them to inherit biased beliefs.
Additionally, in order to obtain direct information, free from the touch of commentary news or biases, it is important to first acquire news from neutral, non-partisan sources. Many of the key news companies in American society have political affiliations whether the public is aware of it or not. Based on a 2018 graph generated from extensive research from MarketWatch, many prevalent news sources in the US are partisan leaning. For example, Buzzfeed news and CNN are more liberal sources, whereas Fox News is more conservative. If one desires to get unpartisan filtered information the graph suggests looking to sources like the Times or PBS. (image below pulled from MarketWatch)
However, it is important to note that due to the subjective nature of news reporting, all stories will have some degree of filtering based on the journalist’s interpretation, desires of the company, and the context of the piece.
Overall, with the whirlwind of information flying around in our current nation, it is important to stay grounded and know direct facts. Although the press and the media is often demonized, it is important to note that it plays an integral role in informing the public about issues concerning our nation; ranging from small, more entertainment oriented stories to the larger, more complex, hard facts. Therefore, it is our job as citizens to keep up with information and contribute to the conversations.