The news today has biases. This is especially true in large news companies such as Fox News, CNN, ABC, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. As Americans, we need to be aware of and work to remove these biases.
I want to take a look at a few things, first, what caused these biases, second, what impact are biases having on the world, and third, what can we do about it.
So, first things first, I think that the way that the biases came into existence is pretty simple. It wasn’t something that I believe was intended when the news sources were created, but it was a creeping progression towards bias. I think that what happened is that someone in charge with prejudices conducted interviews, and when they met someone who thought in a similar way to them, they were more inclined to hire them. As more and more people who thought in that way were hired for the company, there were fewer and fewer people who would point out the growing biases.
This is a slippery slope; the further down you get, the harder it is to make it out. Now that companies are known for their biases, they are less likely to attract people who think differently, which allows for further drift away from neutrality.
It is important to note that this is just a theory, but I believe that it is a good one. If you look back, even just a few years, you can see that the news was much more unified in the things that were reported. Coverage was more even, and news sources would not praise or criticize things. Instead, they would simply report on them.
Another aspect that allows for more bias in the news is the for-profit model of the American news system. News sources are looking for a way to make a profit, that is the ultimate goal of those sources, and so they cater to certain audiences. Often, the audience that they cater to is biased in one way or another.
According to gallup.com, in 1984, 42 percent of Americans believed that “Most news media don’t do a good job of letting people know what is fact and what is opinion,” while in 2017, that number had skyrocketed to 66 percent, an increase of 24 percent.
Another interesting point is that Republicans are much more likely to believe that news sources are biased, with 67 percent perceiving a large amount of political bias in coverage, whereas only 26 percent of Democrats believed the same.
Something that may be even more shocking is the seemingly exponential increase in the perception of news biases in the last few years. In 1989, 25 percent of Americans believed there were significant biases, in 2012, 37 percent of Americans believed that there were significant biases. Today, 45 percent of Americans believe that the news is significantly biased.
From 1989 to 2012, every year, approximately 0.5 percent of Americans changed their mind and decided that there were biases in the news. From 2012 to 2017, there was an average increase of 1.6 percent.
Here at NS, only 10 percent of students who responded to our survey believed that “Most news media are careful to separate fact from opinion,” while the other 90 percent believed that “Most news media don’t do a good job of letting people know what is fact and what is opinion.” Additionally, only 15 percent of students trust mainstream media.
The second issue that needs to be addressed is what impact this is having on the world. One example of this is the overall threat of COVID-19. At the current time, this is a controversial topic, but I believe that if it were not for the biases in the news, it would be viewed in a much more unified light.
However, to fully understand this, we need to look at how the news’s biases caused the controversy we are now seeing. When the threat initially emerged, there wasn’t a lot known about it. At first, many news sources thought that the virus was much more deadly than it was, which was only discovered later. When we found out that the virus was less deadly, people who already distrusted media sources because of their skewed reporting were now skeptical of the virus itself.
Put simply, when there is already a lack of trust, any error breaks that trust even further and causes skepticism. This is only worsened when organizations like Fox News actively sow distrust in their viewers about other news sources.
However, this is not the only consequence of bias in the news. In addition to making scientific facts seem like opinions, it polarizes audiences. The American people are growing farther and farther apart, with those who look to cross the aisle or to compromise with opposing parties being slammed by the news as traitors.
In the end, however, the only significant question is what we are going to do to fix these biases. I believe that the answer is simple. We need to make ourselves aware of our own biases, especially those involved in writing in this paper, and who are interested in becoming involved with the news in the future. We need to identify how we might personally want to sweep some things under the carpet or justify something, and instead simply tell readers and viewers what happened.
That is our job, as journalists, and as honest Americans: to tell the truth and to tell the whole truth, not leaving out details or any parts of the story. It is crucial to our nation’s future to create a network in which we can believe in giving unbiased, fair, and accurate information.
This is my plea, to you, the reader. Identify the biases in news sources you listen to. Report honestly. Do your research and find news sources that are unbiased. Make your own opinions. Most importantly, remember that if we do not find some way to stop biases in the news, they will continue to drift until we have no reliable sources anymore.