By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. Oct. 2013
Mass media has an enormous cultural responsibility. It can influence everything from the food we eat to the politicians we vote for, so it’s critical that all the news presented is informative and accurate.
All that is good, but society has been so focused on the “truth” that journalists have become all tight-lipped when giving their opinions on the topics they cover. Fearful of losing their job, being ridiculed, or getting sued, most reporters and journalists choose the “no comment” method of relaying news in order to appeal to the collective and avoid backlash. But with reporters hiding behind a veil of ingenuousness, it’s the readers and viewers who don’t really get the full story. After all, credibility is an illusion.
Understand this: all media is biased, whether it’s a conglomerate like MSNBC or FoxNews, or an independently run news source like the Other Press. There’s always your story, my story, and the truth—so wouldn’t it be better to know what everyone’s opinion is right from the start? From there we can select who to listen to and who to avoid, who to share ideas with and who to challenge. Understanding is gained from open dialogue, not bottled up suspicion and mistrust.
Criticizing media bias is like criticizing the way we learn from our instructors, our parents, and our friends. You would never condemn any of them for giving their points of view; why shouldn’t the same go for media professionals? The public demands ethical journalism, but individual opinions are just as viable, as long as they’re shared ethically and honestly.
In the annual State of the News Media report done by Pew Research Center, MSNBCwas touted as the most opinionated news network, with 85 per cent of their content being opinions and commentary, versus 15 per cent factual news. Other news media outlets aim for a 50/50-split, and I believe that is a fair balance.
In a world with so many options for news sources, bias is not a negative. In the same ways that we all think and speak differently, news sources should present their differences as well. It would open the playing field for readers and viewers to think critically and build upon their own individual opinions.
News and current events aren’t supposed to be comforting. News is not a television sitcom or a romantic comedy you can cuddle up to. It’s informative, it’ll spark conversations, and only through discussion can we heighten social standards and awareness. Media bias isn’t the problem. The issue is a refusal to see from another’s point of view. That leads to prejudice, stereotyping, and inaccurate assumptions.
I understand the thin line between subjective opinion and propaganda, so don’t get me wrong: what I’m preaching is hard-hitting free speech, not bullshit. As long as an idea is based around facts, there is no problem with voicing harmless thoughts. If you don’t want to hear it then find something else, but in a chaotic world, it would be nice to know what those influencers from television, radio, newspaper, and the Internet are really thinking. In the end, the truth will always surface, regardless of what was reported.