Updated: Nov 13, 2020
“It’s fake news!” seems to be the President of the United States’ favorite retaliation against anything he doesn’t like, and he is often mocked for it. But is he wrong? Freedom of the press is a highly prized American value, but it’s easily arguable that in the age of clickbait and technology, aspects of it have caused division and questionable information to spread in our country. For every major piece of news, there are two sides of the coin–and though most people don’t want to admit it, often both sides are somewhat inaccurate. However, instead of recognizing this, most Americans maintain the viewpoint of I’m right, and they’re always wrong, because let’s be honest–we all want to hear our beliefs be justified. It makes us feel comfortable. But ultimately, what does this do for us? And if neither side is looking for the truth, how can we ever learn to work together again?
As it turns out, we’re already part of the way there. A study conducted by the Knight Foundation shows that 73% of 20,000 Americans see news bias as a serious issue. Overall, a general distrust surrounding American news sources is prevalent, with 48% of Americans believing that news sources are at least partly to blame for the growing political division in the U.S. The issue is, the majority of these people still adhere to the idea that the news sources they trust are always right, and the other side’s sources are wrong. But the fact that nearly half of the Americans studied believe that news bias has attributed to division in our country points in a hopeful direction: they see news bias as an issue, and they understand the effect it has had on our unity as a country.
CNN and Fox News are two of America’s largest news sources, but they cater to very different audiences, and are often both the subject of one political side’s scorn. One thing they share in common, however, is their mixed reliability when it comes to news. CNN is considered a good deal more reliable than Fox, and most experts agree that it has mostly accurate interpretations of the news, but it is undeniably left-leaning in terms of interpretation and commentary. Fox is generally considered more iffy (though its interpretations of the news are often more or less close to the truth), and this undoubtedly stems from the fact that while CNN considers itself nonpartisan, Fox stands firmly in support of the Republican party. President Trump has plainly expressed his favour for Fox News, and supports their painting of the Democratic party in a negative light. Unfortunately, this encourages his supporters to share the same view. It’s notable that his stance on the issue is rare–typically, despite party affiliation, the President does their best to unite the country, but President Trump is anything but typical and unabashedly fuels the hatred of his supporters for the left and the Democratic party. Because of this, the gap between the two parties has never been wider.
So what’s changed? Why is news reliability such a large issue now, when it’s arguable that it wasn’t particularly prominent in the past? Here’s the thing: the media has its own agendas, and they’re not solely political. This dynamic has existed for decades, but the creation of the internet has created a new draw for media outlets–clickbait. Now, being reputable is no longer necessary for news sources to be successful. In fact, sensationalizing news gives the media views, and therefore makes them more successful than outlets that stick to the facts. The internet causes information to spread faster than ever before, and because the line between real news and conspiracy theories has blurred, Americans are left susceptible to misinformation everywhere they turn.
At this point, it’s important to note that to improve our situation, the American people have to attempt to rectify the issue despite the stance that news sources and the President have taken. Despite different beliefs on fundamental issues, coming together might be easier than we think if we lead with the right intention. It may seem as if most Americans have no will to attempt to work together, but the truth is that those dividing us are the loudest people. That is, the quieter majority is generally opposed to this division, often feeling overwhelmed by the fact that it seems to be predominant. Once we stop condemning the rival political party, and understand that despite our differences, the majority of Americans do want what we believe is best for our country, we can start to find common ground and work together again.
It is crucial to realize that news bias is not going to end, and social media is not going to stop fueling the divide in our country. Ultimately, our course of action is up to the American people: we can continue to let close-mindedness and division seep through the walls of our country, or we can reclaim the United States as ours, and start living up to the name of our nation.