The Truth About Media Bias

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Sabrina Abesamis

Sabrina Abesamis, Opinion Editor

It’s 2012 and most people think the world is falling apart. Our government is broken and useless, corporations are taking away our jobs and banks are finding new ways to steal our money. Now more recently, society has found yet another institution to criticize: the media itself. With the upcoming presidential election, many are charging news outlets of media bias, although in most cases it is in fact the news outlets charging other news outlets of media bias. A 2011 Pew Research Survey found that trust in the press is at an all time low since 1985, with 66% believing news stories are inaccurate often and 77% thinking that news tends to favor one side.

Politicians are also joining the blame game. In recent months, conservatives have criticized the supposed “elite media”  in contrast to the liberals who attack the biased news outlets funded by the rich and powerful.

Yet, journalism is supposed to be based on revealing the truth, reporting a balanced, accurate story that captures an event for the sake of an educated public. Or impartially covers investigations to hold people in positions of power, especially politicians, accountable.  So it must really say something about our society when we accuse the truth seekers of bias and lying.

Nevertheless, the most important question to ask might be whether the media is actually biased.The simple answer: probably not. Dozens of studies have discovered that in the past half century or so news reporting tends to stay and remains today in the middle. Of course, there will always, inevitably be slight nuances at any given time, but when you take everything into account, our news media is actually pretty balanced. Though Fox News may report as a quite definitively right-leaning news channel, more liberal MSNBC, New York Times and Huffington Post are there to level the playing field.

Which leads many to ask why we as a country, and especially us teens, have adopted such a skeptic and often pessimistic view of the media at large. The shift can largely be seen, as most issues these days are, as a result of the Internet. With the rise of watchdog websites (such as FAIR and AIM) just waiting to find fault in the media and the proliferation of several unashamedly biased blogs, confidence in what we read has fallen. But we can also trace the problem back to shows like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report, which make a living off skewering the fumbles of the mainstream media. Moreover, people are often confused about what a news organization actually is. With the popularity and high ratings of cable programs where hosts and their guests rant about their opinions, its easy to see how they can be mistaken for hardcore reporting. But, newsflash, they aren’t nor are they truly trying to be. All these factors blur the line between news reporting, which should be impartial, and opinion, making it really hard to trust anything we read or hear these days.

The reality is, there is a balance in the media world, but it all hinges upon the prerequisite that we, as well-educated and informed citizens, are willing to expose ourselves to several news outlets rather than relying on one. Though it may seem like a chore to keep up with the news, let alone watch or read from multiple sources, it’s typically necessary to gain an accurate account. So while I may prefer to just be entertained for half an hour by the Daily Show and think I’ve properly done my civic duty, it’s really not ideal. Which means you should probably cross-check this very article when you’re done reading.