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Issue 1

September 27th, 2019

Unbiased media holds society to higher standards 

MON. | 12-07-20 | OPINION

Co-Editors-in-Chief                             & 

     In a time when we are bombarded with constant news media from every direction, it is essential that we are aware of the dangers of false information. Since COVID-19, people have become more dependent on virtual interactions. Whether scrolling through the Snapchat news feed or browsing a news app of our choice, we must be aware of the influence of writer bias and untrue content especially in a time of national crisis.

     COVID-19 has made many more aware of the risks of misinformation since many have faced grave consequences from not following proper precautions or using unconfirmed treatments. Kristin Urquiza, who's father passed away due to COVID-19, spoke at the Democratic National Convention about this.

     "My dad was a healthy 65-year-old. His only pre-existing condition was trusting Donald Trump, and for that, he paid with his life," Urquiza said. "Donald Trump may not have caused the coronavirus, but his dishonesty and his irresponsible actions made it so much worse."

     Health officials have repeatedly stated that wearing a mask and social distancing are imperative to the health of the nation, yet mixed messages have been sent by leaders, including President Donald Trump. 

     According to the Centers for Disease Control, as of Nov. 19, 2020, 232,639 Americans have died from COVID-19. Misinformation in any form, whether relating to the severity of treatment options and necessary precautions for the pandemic can be the difference between life and death. As civilians, we cannot allow ourselves to be fooled. This has further supported the fact that we must actively seek out accurate and unbiased information.

     Along with the pandemic, the importance of factual media is further stressed in a high intensity election year. Citizens are ambushed with differing content favoring each political party, which in itself can create confusion in deciphering what is true and untrue. For this reason, fact checking is essential. Especially in the weeks and months leading up to the election, citizens were faced with the overconsumption of campaign media, some true and some not. Whether it’s reading a tweet from a politician or viewing content on TikTok, it is equally important to fact check the information as social media posts do not necessarily always qualify as a solid and factual source.

     The influx of false media, especially seen favoring various political parties, serves to only further polarize the nation. In accordance with confirmation bias, people tend to find and trust information that lends itself to support their pre-existing beliefs, and sometimes choose not to believe the truth. In this sense, the overconsumption of media serves as a barrier in promoting civil discourse on social media platforms, which is the essential opposite of its intentions. According to American University 

When viewing media infographic.jpg

Graphic by Tierney Reardon

of Washington, D.C., “polarization of opinions, coupled with the speed and access of the digital age have made it more difficult to keep our conversations civil in America today,” which has truly been exemplified in the civil unrest, seen in the BLM/anti-police brutality marches, following and leading up to the election. 

     When examining a source to determine its accuracy and bias, one must take several things into account. Who is the author? What kind of authority do they hold in the subject matter? When was the content published? Who is it published by and what topics do they usually report? Do they cater to any one type of story? What do they consider newsworthy?

     In our own paper, we ask that new writers consider prominence, timeliness, conflict, human interest, novelty and proximity when deciding whether or not a story is newsworthy. These aspects, however, vary some by section. For example, features stories should have more human interest, but are often less timely. Instead, they are usually evergreen articles, meaning that they can be run at any time and remain relevant. On the other hand, news and sports stories must be timely, but tend to have less human interest. Finally, opinion and entertainment stories allow writers much more freedom as they are able to voice their own thoughts which is entirely avoided in the other sections. This freedom, however, needs to be used carefully, especially in a school environment.

     For example, when I was co-editing the Opinion section with a peer, we ran into trouble. A writer had submitted a rough draft on the topic of the trans community and accessibility to bathrooms, but he had done so in a disrespectful way, giving little thought to how his article might harm those in our school community. The other editor and I couldn’t refuse to run the article simply because we disagreed with the opinion being voiced, so we met with our teacher and more experienced editors to find a way to offer constructive criticism without overshadowing the writer’s opinion. Eventually, we asked him to provide more credible sources and suggested that he phrase his opinion in a more respectful manner. 

     Even more so, this situation stresses the importance of factual and credible media in a larger context. Our own experiences in journalism have shown us the balance good journalism must achieve between allowing writers to exercise their freedom of speech and maintaining ethical and accurate standards. As consumers of media, we all must be aware of the information we see and how we allow it to affect us. 

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