Consider your own bias when criticizing media, do your own research

October 17, 2016

Hannah Harvey

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     I have been a consumer of media my entire life. I read newspapers, digital and print, watch movies, listen to music and look at advertisements. You probably do too.

     People like to criticize media without fully understanding what that term encompasses.

     When people criticize media, they project their focus onto news outlets. This term isn’t just a collective noun for news outlets; it encompasses all forms of media that we consume on a daily basis.

     Albert Bandura’s famous 1961 study evaluated aggression in children using operant conditioning. Like many other psychological studies that evaluate how media influence our psych, Bandura’s study demonstrated that different forms of media contribute to influencing our psychological states.

     But we still have to hold ourselves accountable for the formation of our own opinions.

     You can’t base an entire opinion off of one article published by one media outlet, especially considering that most media outlets have their own political agenda they are trying to push onto their readers.

     As of 2014, there were 1,331 daily newspapers in the U.S, according to The Statistics Portal. In 2015, there were 1,780 television stations in the U.S. as well. In Colorado, there are 10 large newspapers and six television stations.

     Instead of jumping on a bandwagon that supports or is against an article, take time to educate yourself on the implications of what that article is trying to say.

     Calling a reporter “lazy” when you have never even experienced what it takes to write an investigative piece, or any piece for that matter, is ignorant.

     In a Washington Post editorial called “Please stop calling us ‘the media.’ There is no such thing,” reporter Paul Farhi criticizes those who like to lump all media outlets under the same derogatory term.

     “Lumping these disparate entities under the same single brand label is like describing denizens of the ocean as ‘the fish.’ It’s true, but effectively meaningless,” said Farhi.

     Your distaste with the media could be due to your disagreements with liberal or conservative politics, considering that, on a generalized level, people like to blame the “liberal” or “conservative” media for every story they don’t agree with.

     But, as Fahri also points out, consider your own confirmation bias, defined as a way for someone to search for and interpret information in a way that aligns with their own beliefs.

     I’m a victim of this myself, but we have to realize that maybe the reason we don’t always like what we read is because it doesn’t match up with our own confirmation bias.

     As a journalist, I’m not allowed to be biased. It doesn’t matter if I do not like the topic that I am reporting; I cannot let that bias come through. I have to think critically about reporting everything I research in the most accurate way possible, and I am against sensationalizing stories to gain readership.

     Yes, some news outlets do this. Some news outlets will endorse a candidate that you hate, sensationalize a story that does not deserve as much attention as it gets or push an agenda that might be harmful.

     But collectively, media are not doing this. Reporters in newsrooms across the country are not sitting together coming up with a diabolical plan to make their readers angry.

     Only 26 percent of Americans aged 18-49 years old trust the media, according to Gallup. We know that print media is dying out, and we don’t want to lose our readers.

     Good, unbiased reporting is not contributing to a decline in trust of the media. Your confirmation bias is.

     Consider your own personal and political beliefs when reading an article, because a biased lens can change what you read.