Friday, November 18, 2016

90 Minutes With Russell Contreras

by: Jessica Sees

In this week's 90 minutes series, Ohio University students had the opportunity to attend a discussion with Russell Contreras, an Associated Press reporter and UNITY president, about subjects ranging from diversity and inclusion, immigration coverage, the media's role in this election and Goodfella's pizza. 

The topic from Contreras’s talk that inspired this post was how we as the media cover national events such as the 2016 election. In this post I'd like to talk about the 2016 elections and how I feel we failed to cover it from an ethical standpoint.

I believe we failed to seek truth and report it (code number one from SPJ) and hold ourselves accountable (code number four from SPJ). I’ll explain how I feel we under performed in each subject. The aspects in particular that I’ll be hashing out are sensationalism, fake news and what we can do as ethical members of the media to ensure we provide accurate, meaningful and important stories to our audience.

Sensationalism and election coverage

This was arguably the most controversial and sensationalized election in our country’s recent history. Contreras got it right when he commented that we as the media failed to engage in real news coverage of the election rather than feeding into the absurdity of the campaigns ran by both the left and the right.

We didn’t ask important questions on how the candidates would implement their policies or how they would enact the changes they both promised the nation. This doesn’t align with the vow to seek truth and report it because we didn’t actively seek out answers to questions we (as a nation) needed to hear. We put outrageous story coverage over context, clarity and depth for our stories.

Contreras commented that we were reluctant to ask the hard questions because the allure of the sensationalist campaigns was too much to resist. He put it best when he said, “Engaging in these topics would be like making the reader eat their broccoli. We want fries, fast food, alcohol, etc.”

Fake News

We didn’t do our part to combat the fake news being spread throughout social media on both the Democratic and Republican sides.  In a piece by Buzzfeed News, we can see an uptick in the virility of fake news in the social media landscape, especially with Facebook. The chart below shows that news debunked as fake was shared over one million more times than factual news was.

Via Buzzfeed News

 As the deliverers of news, we need to not only act as watchdogs of our government, but as watchdogs of ourselves as well. We need to make sure when we come across false information being spread like wildfire over social media platforms, we immediately present the facts to our audience and set the record straight. This is where we have seriously struggled with our ethics. We didn’t do enough to stop the spread of misinformation.

So… what can we do to improve our coverage?

With all of that being said, all is not lost for our nation’s media. There are things we can do to reboot ourselves after our flawed election coverage.  We need to listen to people. And I mean really hear them out even if we don’t agree with them. We need to re-establish a media presence in places outside of the current hubs (L.A. New York and D.C.) and we need to present content that is important for the public to know (but we need to do it in away that is still engaging).

No comments:

Post a Comment