The news, which was confined to radio and television broadcasts several decades ago, now inhabits our social feeds and notifications on our phones.
The jump-start of technology in the 21st century goes hand-in-hand with the rapid evolution of journalism, creating an information overload that confronts the average citizen with a single issue.
The growing ocean of news sources seems to drown out any coherency to be found in a whirlpool of biased, twisted statements that all seem to draw away from the truth. But the everyman is not left defenseless.
It is the duty of every responsible citizen to educate themselves in media bias and how to shape informed opinions that reflect their worldview. How can we do that with content that is polarized toward opposing parties?
The key to navigating the waves of conservative and liberal slants is simply through education. After spending a few minutes searching the internet, bias transforms into an opinion that argues toward an individual’s point of view.
Understanding all sides of an argument reinforces individual opinion by giving it credibility, drawing ideas from both sides of the spectrum to find a collaborative solution.
Intentional, deep reading is required to find the facts that journalists need to build their stories upon. Skimming an article for points that reinforce personal viewpoints does not constitute full comprehension of the message.
“One of the reasons that digital readers skim is… because so much of what we find online is not worth our full attention,” says Laura Miller in a book review discussing the effect of the internet on human reading habits in Slate Magazine.
This statement rings true for many sources where articles are written to be digested in 30-second breaks from our Facebook feeds. Miller finds that the best counter for lazy reading is to hone fine reading skills and introduce challenging texts into daily literature.
How does informed reading allow more access to information, when all news sources seem to be catering to certain audiences?
Although President Donald Trump continues to lash out at media sources for inaccuracy and misinformation, a strong history lies behind anti-media sentiment. David Greenberg gives an interesting overview of the history of media bias as a political tool stemming from the 1968 Democratic convention.
“While the political views of national reporters do lean left, most news journalists … care most about getting the story right,” Greenberg says. “While claims of liberal media bias are often exaggerated or used for political ends, a polarized political climate does make it hard for news reporters to keep their political opinions in check and to maintain their credibility with audiences across the spectrum.”
However, according to a study by Media Matters for America, both The New York Times and The Washington Post quoted twice as many Republicans as opposed to Democrats.
The goal of the media is to provide information to the public. Partially due to the shortening attention of modern readers, news organizations have had to work harder than ever to win the public’s attention. While sensationalizing information has become a norm for the media, the modern consumer can subvert catchy headlines to become informed by simply putting in a little effort.
It might be easier to simply scroll past headlines and let Facebook recommend reading content (which conveniently is always catered to individual interests), but being an informed citizen is a duty necessary to maintaining a healthy democracy.
Choosing to be ignorant on current events while demanding the platform to broadcast uninformed and inflammatory opinions exhibits irresponsibility in every form in regard to participating in social discourse.
Nothing is ever freely given, and neither is the truth. It wouldn’t be American journalism if it didn’t mean pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.