Monday, October 24, 2016

Red White and Blue... and Media Bias Too

Victoria Souza

It’s hard to debate that there is not an obvious bias in the media these days that typically tends to swing towards the more liberal side. Conservatives cry out, feeling threatened and attacked for their political beliefs. Politicians hide behind this “witch hunt” conspiracy that no matter what they say, they will be persecuted. Viewers, political opinions aside, distrust the media because they feel that no matter what they believe, the media will only represent one side of it. Conservatives yell at CNN and ABC, and Liberals shun Fox News as if it's simply a scripted soap opera that belongs amongst shows like The Bold and the Beautiful.

The bipartisanship that exists in this country and the gap that exists between the aisle certainly both overflow into our media outlet, leaving one to ask the question: “If congress can’t find a way to be moderate, how can the media?”

It’s rare to find a mainstream, “moderate” and unbiased news media outlet. However, I’d like to argue that these outlets DO exist. They may not be mainstream or popularly noted, but they are out there. It’s the reader’s opinion that determines whether or not the source is biased. Be it a conservative or a liberal, if the media does not coincide with their personal beliefs, then they will be quick to condemn it to the depths of biased media purgatory.
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I consider myself a liberal by most accounts, but I too wonder if my beliefs are strictly swayed based on media bias. Is what I’m watching affecting my opinions and beliefs more than I give credit? I once tried experimenting with switching between media outlets for my news. Rather than watching NBC or even Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, I tried watching Fox News for a week. It most definitely did not change my steadfast opinions. That’s when I realized that I watch what will affirm my beliefs. My father then turned me to Michael Smerconish on NPR. He is one of the few news hosts that I could argue is very moderate. He does not stain his broadcast with his own beliefs, and includes guests from both conservative and liberal perspectives and respects their opinions. When he does weigh in, he makes it clear that he has heard from both sides and has developed his opinions based on the facts, not the passion of the topic. 

Besides the political bias in media, there is the evident racial bias that many have raised questions about recently. Does the media, be it liberal or conservative, treat blacks differently? In this instance it is clear at times that the mainstream media is run by mostly older age white men. Despite the majority believing that the media is ultra liberal, it certainly does tend to skew toward privileged white male, as most of our society and politics do. The way blacks have been portrayed in the media has historically been measurably different than whites. On top of blacks, Hispanics, Latinos, and Middle Eastern ethnicities have also been treated with a measurable amount of disregard. Some would argue that criminal news stories featuring a minority criminal tend to center the story around the often unnecessary fact of the person’s skin color or ethnicity. And on top of that, there’s the argument that unless the story portrays the race in a unfavorable light or an uncharacteristic one (criminal vs. hero approach), then the story will be swept under the rug. It’s true that there are many stories on minorities out there that mainstream media misses or knowingly chooses to ignore. This is also a major ethical dilemma of media bias. Should the media outlet choose to not air a story based around a minority because they feel it will not render enough viewership? Or simply change the language used to describe the race, to spin the story for viewership? Absolutely not. 

It’s our job as the next up and coming generation of journalists to try to bridge the gap between liberal and conservative media as well as treat every race with the same manner of coverage and respect as another. Diversity is what this country thrives on, and diversity in the media is key to creating positive attitudes towards one another in our society. 

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