Bye Bye Bias
My sophomore journalism class started alongside talk of the 2016 election. Our nightly homework assignment was to read the front page stories of The New York Times. Sophomore year was also time to start planning college visits and really think about where I wanted to go with my future. After looking into places to live, subjects to major in, and especially how I was ever going to pay tuition, I realized the numbers I was always hearing on the boring channels that my parents watched mattered. Once I started paying more attention to them I realized almost every source I checked had different numbers.
In journalism, my teacher tried to explain why this was happening, using as little bias as possible. At home I got a similar, but less filtered answer. Some news sources took sides and stretched truths in their works, and others have been known to publish complete lies. While they both said there are some reliable places to digest news, their answers of where contradicted each other. I was becoming more confused the more I asked, and eventually found myself taking both answers pretty lightly. I tried to balance out my information intake by asking both my liberal journalism teacher, and conservative parents to explain current events and believing something in the middle but it was hard to be sure. The immigration policies my friends put on Twitter vastly differed from the posts my relatives liked on Facebook. I tried to make sense out of all the information coming to me but I wished there was a way to sort out all of the information that was coming to me. I just wanted to know the truth.
In the history unit of that journalism class, I realised this isn’t a new problem. Sensationalized media started in the times of Pulitzer, Hearst and Yellow Journalism. Money, traffic and sales started to motivate publications more than what readers really need to know. An entire war was caused by an un- fact checked headline. Today the issue has evolved into Facebook rants, Tumblr posts, and news sources taking the sides of their readers, rather than the truth. These more interesting ways to consume media have overshadowed by sources who are struggling to make a profit delivering the facts. Americans are being told what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear.Without a way to really know what is happening around us, we are destined for failure. How can we know how to act if we don’t even know what our surroundings are?
I hope that in my lifetime, we can come together to find a solution to this problem. While getting government intervention would be convenient it is not at all practical. Journalists are the watchdogs of the government, not the government itself. Giving the power of the press to any one person, party, or president would be detrimental to our society. Instead educating citizens of the media bias issue would be a good first step. From there, trying to help truthful sources get more reach could be beneficial. Sensationalized, opinion and lifestyle media is part of our culture today, but it should be labeled as such instead of passed around as the truth. Most importantly a community of journalists, dedicated to the truth before the money is necessary to end this issue.
Although I am still just a high school student, reporting for a publication that is only distributed to the students, staff and parents at my school, I do everything I can to protect the truth. I ask straightforward, unbiased questions, interview relevant sources, and even when it would be so much easier to make up one up and hit word count, I never fabricate quotes. Hopefully my peers are doing the same, and my generation will be the one to stop media bias.