by Eve Schlegel ‘20
The top stories on news sources, such as CNN and Fox News, almost always appear to take a side in politics. Over the past month, CNN has harped over the Trump impeachment inquiry, revealing any little detail. On the other hand, Fox News chooses to almost never report on the inquiry. The two online sites also offer dueling headlines, such as CNN showcasing the breaking news title “Trump calls impeachment inquiry a ‘lynching’” and Fox News countering the same day with “Flashback: Top Dems, including Nadler, called Clinton impeachment ‘lynching.’” The obvious contrast between these news sources and their opposite political views leads to the question, what impact does this news bias have on Americans.
It is a part of human nature, even animal nature, to have a need for belonging. When people call themselves a Democrat or Republican, it gives a sense of comfort and power to be among a group that reflects similar views. Fox News and CNN have the ability to put out partisan news because the audience enjoys it. They have high viewerships because people like to hear “news” that reflect their own political views.
More worrisome individuals who rely on only one source for information and commentary may fully accept the political views preached, without considering contrasting opinions. Being informed on all sides of an issue is the best way to develop one’s own opinion. Hearing a news event from only one perspective may not reveal all the details of a particular event.
As a conservative myself, I cannot say I am completely innocent in this circumstance. On my phone, I have many news apps including the Washington Post, Fox News, Reuters, and CNN. I try to be inclusive when following the news, but sometimes I find myself gravitating towards Fox News when I am on a time crunch. I will not lie, watching CNN typically angers me, but I am open-minded enough to realize Fox News is just as guilty. It is easy to point fingers at CNN, for example, and claim they only report on the negative stories of the Trump administration. The readers of these partisan sources, including me at times, fuel the fire by watching and reacting to the partiality.
In a recently released book “Hate Inc: Why Today’s Media Makes Us Despise One Another,” Matt Taibbi describes how people “need to start understanding the news not as ‘the news,’ but as just such an individualized consumer experience – anger just for you.” He goes on to explain that bias “creates masses of media consumers who’ve been trained to see in only one direction, as if they had been pulled through history on a railroad track, with heads fastened in blinders, looking only one way.”
Taibbi describes it perfectly when he says “As it turns out, there is a utility in keeping us divided. As people, the more separate we are, the more politically impotent we become.” The partisan news sources have power by keeping viewers in the dark. Hearing only one viewpoint can blind one’s reasoning, and will push them to keep watching the source. If people become aware of the bias and actively attempt to detect it, maybe it will shape the way they view the news. While yes, having a controversial president does contribute to today’s extreme political division, maybe the news has an even bigger role. If partisan news sources, like Fox News and CNN, made an effort to report news that did not take a side, Americans could begin to think for themselves instead of being told how to think.