Monday, October 24, 2016

How News Organizations Adapt to an Increasingly Opinionated Society

Ciara Sebecke

We live in a world where conservatives accuse the "liberal media" of being biased, but then cite Fox News as a credible and objective source. Those on the left claim that conservatives are imagining a left-leaning bias when almost every news source reaffirms their own beliefs.

Trust in journalism is lower than ever in a world where an obvious media bias is impossible to ignore. Anyone can create a website and call themselves a "journalist," whether they are sharing objective facts or not. The news is written by humans, and humans have opinions, whether they try to hide them or not. But, in an age where so many opinions are shared freely, is that really such a bad thing?

News and Politics Aren't What They Used to Be

In the 2010s, children are taught in schools to celebrate their differences and become independent thinkers. Critical thinking and opinion forming is encouraged, and students have more freedom than ever before to share their own ideas. Being "seen and not heard" is a thing of the past. More and more writers are coming from this generation, and now we are unsuccessfully telling them to stifle their opinions.

Today, social norms are disappearing and the idea of being "normal" has never been so unique. With the legalization of gay marriage, the first African-American president, and general acceptance of cultural and biological differences, America has never before been so open-minded.

The idea of what is polite and what is socially acceptable is constantly changing. No longer are the subjects of "politics, sex and religion" seen as taboo in private conversation. There are so many differing views, and an open discussion is more encouraged than ever.

If having a strong, educated opinion and openness to new ideas are so encouraged in society, why should we tell our news media to go against the trend?


Why a News Bias Is Inevitable 

Readers prefer, and subsequently share, content that shares their own biases and opinions. This means that articles with a slight or even strong bias are inevitably becoming more popular. News organizations are going to keep doing what results in the strongest readership and praise, so this trend is unlikely too slow.

People know that the national news giants are not always the first to cover breaking news stories. In the age of the internet, users turn to social media or hyper-local news sources to get the cold, hard, objective facts of an unfolding story. Readers turn to larger publications like the New York Times and Washington Post for something more that they will not find in a story that only contains only objective facts. The public knows that these sources will share an interesting opinion and additional insight on stories that they likely already know the basic facts of.

In today's world, "news" is no longer "just news." The traditional news model is unsustainable in an environment where facts appear online in seconds. No longer are these corporations the gatekeepers of all information. To remain in business, traditional news sources have to offer something extra, and in many cases, that is a discussion or opinion.

As long as writers are transparent and honest about their biases and open to discussion, a biased "news media" is not always evil or unethical. Media literacy is more important than ever with little barriers to entry for citizen journalists, many of whom have strong opinions. Please comment with your opinion below!

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