Is honest journalism dead?

By Eliah Anderson
Staff Writer

As a budding journalism student in Mr. Lund’s class, the first rule I learned about news was: tell the facts. Use who, what, when, where, why and how and nothing else. No jargon, no opinion, just straight facts. Though potentially boring to read it is exactly as it proclaims to be: news. Somewhere along the lines of journalistic rankings, starting with me at the bottom in journalism class to multi-billion dollar worldwide news corporations, news has become less factual and more opinion based. Why is modern news subjective instead of objective? And is that a disservice to the population? The purpose of this article is to analyze some of the cause and effects of objectivity in the media and shed some light on the murky water we call news.

The general consensus of the Kayhi students and teachers that I interviewed was that news is not objective. That claim was backed up by different books and articles that I read. Are people OK with reading objective news? Apparently, it’s just kinda been accepted.

Senior Lora Starr, a self-described ‘political junkie’ dedicates 1-2 hours of her busy schedule each week to following current events. “It is pretty evident when you watch the news that you’re not really getting just facts, you are getting the opinion of the news organization,” Starr said. “You can find two stories from two different news sources and the way that they cover them will be completely opposite even though it is essentially the same story.” History teacher Mr. Cron agrees that most news is biased, saying, “Some venues of news are more objective than others. I think it is impossible to have true objectivity because there is always subconscious objective bias present. Some news organizations try very hard to report truth and objectivity whereas others don’t.”

The problem then becomes discerning what is truth from the objective articles you read. The book Blur: How to Know What’s Truth in the Age of Information Overload by Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel gives 6 easy questions to ask to discover the truth in news. But is the average person going to take the time to follow such steps? Maybe, maybe not. The questions are:

Ask the Questions

  • What kind of content am I encountering?
  • Is the information complete; and if not what is missing?
  • Who or what are the sources, and why should I believe them?
  • What evidence is presented and how was it tested or vetted?
  • What might be an alternate explanation or understanding?
  • Am I learning what I need to?

Biased news isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact some, like Mr. Cron, appreciate the bias. Mr. Cron uses partisan stories to formulate his own thoughts. “I think that news that is just straight facts is actually a disservice because you have somebody that has spent a lot more time doing research about things than I have as a reader,” Cron said. “I am not really in a position to have an opinion but I am interested in people who have spent a lot of time thinking about this and what their opinion is.”

What Cron looks for in a news source is its ability to make accurate predictions. For him an example of a quality news story is one by journalist Nate Silver where Silver evaluates a wrong prediction he made. Originally, Silver said that Donald Trump had less than a 2% chance of becoming the Republican nominee but was proved wrong with time, as Trump has now secured that title. Cron uses journalists who reevalute their predictions as an indicator for truthful news.

Different types of news bias:

Type of Bias Description
Corporate Report news based on profit
Liberal Report news based on politically liberal views
Conservative Report news based on politically conservative views
Advertisement Report news to please advertisers
Mainstream Bias Report what others are reporting in an effort to not offend anyone

Where did biased news come from? Is the consumer not demanding fair news or are the companies swayed by outside sources? Senior Amber Junker feels that the reason news is biased is because news companies are businesses who need to make money and stay afloat. It’s a simple process of supply and demand. “People don’t really want to watch the newscaster say ‘here’s all this boring information about something,’ Junker said. “They’d rather watch something that is entertaining. That’s just kind of how it is but it’s not what everyone wants.” She continued to say that news is often based off of ratings. For example when reporting on the presidential campaigns the media often focused little on actual policies and more on entertainment value. Trump got the most media attention by far and ended up securing the nomination.

The Atlantic reported a story titled The Shock Jock Candidate: How did Donald Trump Win The Primary which analyzed how Trump used media, even if it portrayed him in a negative light, to secure the primary. Trump has used such strategies as attacking news anchors and other candidates relentlessly to get coverage. Even Trump himself admitted to exaggerating his speech. “From the speaking standpoint, I would tone it down somewhat as president – don’t forget I started out competing against 17 people,” Trump said in an article by People Magazine.

Starr believes all the news helped Trump to get to where he is today. “I think any media attention is good media attention. It got Trump’s name out and people knew more about him because he was covered so much in the newspaper,” Starr said. “A lot of the news is just about him and not his policies.” Donald Trump is one example of the social relationship between the news and the people. The media can impact the public in ways that affect the elections and the public can impact the media by demanding a certain type of coverage.

Ultimately it comes down to the reader to decipher the truth out of the news. There are many different opinions in the world but each individual must decide their worldview for him or herself, regardless of the variety of influences that attempt to persuade someone one way or another.

“If you look at a very liberal media outlet verse a conservative one and you look at the stories they are choosing to tell, the stories are often completely different,” Cron said. “It’s because they have certain worldviews that they want to re-enforce. In some ways that [bias] is unavoidable but people that are educated need to understand what are the true goals and incentives that drive the behavior of the news business.”

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