Photo courtesy of Yukiko Matsuoka / Flickr

You Probably Don’t Trust the Media—Now What Should You Do About It?

When I catch up on the latest news on my walk to class or in line at the Chocolate Bar, I’m always tempted to look for one article or short video that will provide me with complete and accurate stories. That’s the media’s job, right? I’m busy, and I need a way to get all of the recent news as quickly and conveniently as possible. Unfortunately, though, it is virtually impossible for me to find one objective source with the full story from all sides of the issue, and I am not the only one with this concern.

Public trust in the media is at an all-time low: according to a 2015 poll by Gallup only 7% of Americans have a great deal of trust in the media. A report for Associated Press determined, “...consumers do value broad concepts of trust like fairness, balance, accuracy, and completeness. At least two-thirds of Americans cite each of these four general principles as very important to them.”

There’s no denying that some media outlets fail to meet these standards, allowing biases and motivations to get in the way. However, there is good news: in today’s dynamic and interconnected media landscape, anyone can express their opinions online and the public has the power to influence the media like never before. Rather than focusing on the faults, omissions, and biases that occur in the media, which I unequivocally agree are problematic, the attention should be on what citizens can do to make a change.

Take Matt Lauer’s recent interviews of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. He told Clinton to outline her foreign policy “as briefly as [she] can” without doing the same to Trump. When Trump insisted yet again that he opposed the Iraq War all along, Lauer failed to fact check him. It is indisputable that Lauer was not fulfilling his journalistic duty to provide complete and unbiased information for the viewers. Fortunately, the public utilized its ability to speak out and make a difference. Following the interviews, the issue spread like wildfire as Americans expressed their outrage on various social media platforms. Lauer didn’t fact check Trump’s claims about his opposition to the Iraq War, but those watching did and publicized it quickly and effectively. The outrage will certainly force Lauer and NBC to rethink their journalism style in the future. Ultimately, the public filled the holes that Lauer had left and changed the situation for the better; this is definitely not ideal, but it’s far better than passively grumbling that the media is untrustworthy.

Many people argue that the media has a responsibility to be completely objective—anything that falls short of this standard is unacceptable. I agree that objectivity is ideal in a perfect world, but it’s ultimately unattainable. Journalists are humans, complete with flaws and personal biases. Undoubtedly they have more of a responsibility than an average citizen to put these aside, but there is a disparity between what should be the case and what happens in reality. By no means am I letting journalists off the hook for inaccurate or incomplete reporting. However, attempting to address systemic problems of bias in “the media” as a whole is simply an unfeasible task.

For BC students who want to stay informed on current issues, I think it’s important to be wary of bias and form opinions from a variety of sources. Rather than blindly accepting one source as the complete truth, be skeptical and research the topic more thoroughly. Fact check claims to confirm their accuracy. It’s certainly a more time-consuming task, but I see it as imperative for anyone who wants to be knowledgeable, particularly when casting a vote this November. Even further, it’s important to be active and engaged with the media, as one individual can have a serious impact.

Send presidential debate questions on Twitter, write articles for an online publication, or post stories, opinions, and experiences that others can read and learn from. The media may be biased, flawed, and in some cases untrustworthy, but every citizen has the power to change that, even on a small scale.

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