The Impact of Information on Us and Media Bias
How it works
To be educated, productive members of society, we rely heavily on the media and news to get our information. One of the main functions of the media is to inform its audience, and the source a person chooses to get that information from is exceedingly influential. The atmosphere of media today is frequently accused of being more polarized than ever before. With the constant accusations of ‘fake’ and biased news, it can be challenging to decide where to obtain authentic, neutral material.
This is especially prevalent today as the internet market is rapidly expanding and now using social media for news. For example, in 2016, studies showed ‘44% of U.S. adults get news on Facebook’ (Graber & Dunaway, 104). It’s safe to say the media benefits us by keeping us up to date on current events at an unprecedented rate. However, with the expanding market and the power to choose any news source, how can we be sure we aren’t consuming biased information?
The media has a substantial role in distributing news about the government and its officials, so it’s not surprising that we perceive it to be politically influenced by different political parties. Partisan audiences can choose the channels that align with their respective views and ideals. When it comes to categorizing biased news, the main three groups are left-wing, right-wing, and neutral media. To decide how influential each group is on their own political agenda, we must consider how they’re portraying their stories differently from one another and who they endorse or do not endorse. In this essay, I will analyze multiple articles from several news sources considered to be on opposing political sides, as well as sources that are thought to be neutral, to determine why they are considered biased or unbiased.
The first articles to analyze are about the pipe bombs sent anonymously through the mail to several major Democrats two weeks before the midterm elections of 2018. These bombs were sent to the major left-wing news station CNN, as well as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and even prominent celebrities such as Robert De Niro. Thankfully, none of the bombs detonated, so no one was hurt. The attack clearly had a political agenda, and eyes were on Republican leadership to see how they would respond to these terrorist attacks. How did this affect the way partisan media stations covered the news?
An article by The Associated Press is one of the least biased reports to be published. It identifies the locations where each bomb was sent and the people they were targeting. The report includes statements about Trump’s harsh criticism of these Democrats and his vendetta against CNN for being ‘fake news’. The article goes on to explain the bombs in detail and how each was intercepted or found. Statements from the targeted individuals that detail their views on how these attacks stem from the White House speaking against their opponents are also included, but The Associated Press does not expand upon these statements. For example, a quote from the CNN Worldwide president stating ”The president, and especially the White House press secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that” (AP News, para.30). This quote appears to be included not to create bias but to illustrate the reactions from the targeted victims. Overall, the article demonstrates little bias and chiefly presents the facts.
On the other hand, Fox News published an article that shed a different light on the topic. The article provides a detailed, chronological outline of the events that took place at CNN when and after the bomb was found, and discusses the bombs sent to other Democrats as well. There are no quotes in the article from targeted victims, and no statements that influence the reader to believe that the bombings had anything to do with Republican hostility towards Democrats in the media. Instead, the article mainly quotes tweets from White House leadership condemning the acts and promising that justice will be served.
The last article to be analyzed was published by the Huffington Post on the same day as the bombings, and it presented some unique perspectives on the events. The beginning of the article sets a tone that is clearly indicative that these attacks rely heavily on the actions of President Donald Trump. Several times it is stated that ‘All of them have been Trump’s very public enemies’ (‘All The Targets In This Week’s Mail Attacks Have Been Trump’s Worst Enemies’, para.8). The facts about the event that are highlighted are the targets and how they relate to being enemies of Trump. The basis of the essay relies heavily on quotes and previous interactions between the adversaries, while the actual pipe bombing event seems to get somewhat lost in the criticism.
When comparing these three articles, there are several similarities. All articles give some factual information about the events. They include who the targets were, where the bombs were sent, and how they were intercepted. All articles discuss a political aspect of the situation as well.
Apart from a few small similarities, these articles are profoundly different. The Huffington Post’s article clearly blames President Trump. ‘Trump has repeatedly called his followers to violence against the people and organizations that were victimized this week,’ the article states (‘All The Targets In This Week’s Mail Attacks Have Been Trump’s Worst Enemies’, para.2). Even without knowing the motive or the culprit, they’ve already placed blame on the actions of the president. On the other hand, the article written by Fox News completely omits any discussion of Trump’s effect on the situation. Instead of acknowledging the influence the President has on the media, they only focus on his reactions to the events. The article reads, ‘Trump said late Wednesday afternoon that the ‘safety of the American people is [his] highest and absolute priority,’ and that a major investigation is being conducted into the ‘despicable acts” (Fox News, para.18). This quote from Trump is not included in the Huffington Post article, and the Fox News article includes no statements that make a connection between Trump’s actions and these attempted bombings. Instead, Fox portrays him as a hero, who is going to ensure the perpetrator pays for their actions. The article written by The Associated Press stays relatively neutral and provides much more detail about the actual bombs, as well as the victims and their statements. The journalists stuck to the facts and left opinions out of their article.
The next story I analyzed took place after the shootings at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. President Donald Trump was planning to attend the same day as the first funerals for the victims, and there were very mixed emotions about his visit. The president visited the makeshift memorial for the victims, as well as the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, to meet with law enforcement and the medical staff there (NPR, para.2,6). With the public and government officials having mixed opinions, we can analyze whether that translated to the media as well.
An article released by NPR seems to cover the event in a neutral tone. It begins by discussing the president and his family’s arrival in Pittsburgh and the events they participated in there, such as visiting the memorial and the hospital to pay homage to those involved in the attack. The neutrality of the article comes from the fact that it relies heavily on the facts, noting that many government officials did not agree with the president’s visit until after the funerals. His defiance also raised comments such as ‘The president’s critics wonder how he can ‘express his support for the American people and grieve with the Pittsburgh community,’ as the White House said he intends to do, while continuing to use divisive rhetoric toward those he considers political foes’ (NPR, para.13). On the other hand, the article does mention there were those who commended the president’s reactions. Although there is talk of Trump not being wanted in the city at that time, and the protests that surrounded that ideal, the article shows he was there to pay his respects and didn’t paint him in a negative light.
The Washington Times published an article on the events that approached the situation from a significantly different perspective. The article leads right off by stating, ‘A coalition of liberal groups sought to gain partisan advantage by blaming the president for the tragedy and urging the public to ‘vote against anti-Semitism” (Washington Times, para.1). This sets the tone for the rest of the piece. The same events covered in other articles are addressed in this article as well, with the addition of a meeting with a victim’s widowed wife who wanted to meet with the president to let him know people wanted him there according to Sarah Sanders (Washington Times, para. 6). There’s mention of the president’s reactions to the trip, showing he was touched and saddened by the events. The article omits the political figures opposed to his visit, noting simply their declined invitations to attend. The article paints a picture that the president took time out of his chaotic schedule to make the trip, and it discredits the protestors’ agenda to vote against antisemitism by mentioning the shooter was an antagonist of the president (Washington Times, para.22). Overall, this article does provide a wealth of facts, but it also leaves out key details of the protests.
The last article to examine was issued by Huffington Post. This article leads with a picture of Tracy Baton, Pittsburgh’s director of the Women’s March on Washington, speaking to a crowd of protestors saying, “Those that would limit our neighbors’ vote, that would foment hate against the Jewish community, Muslim community, people of color, LGBTQ people, as well as wage a war on women’s bodies, are not welcome here!” (‘Trump’s Visit To Pittsburgh – A City That Didn’t Want Him,’ para.3). This sets the tone for the whole article. She’s obviously referring to Trump’s visit. HuffPost refers to the visit as a ‘three-hour photo-op in a grieving city where most of the residents, it seemed, had never wanted him to come at all’ (‘Trump’s Visit To Pittsburgh – A City That Didn’t Want Him,’ para.4). They mention the mayor’s advice to the president to not attend, and describe Rabbi Jeffrey Myers as ‘one of the few people who had agreed to meet the president’ (‘Trump’s Visit To Pittsburgh – A City That Didn’t Want Him,’ para.7). The article mainly focuses on the protests and the anger towards Trump’s visit, and the increasing demands to fight white supremacy. The main idea in this article is that the president was unwanted in the city at that time, and that he is to blame for these hate crimes.
In regard to the similarities in these articles, there aren’t many. They all do talk about Trump’s visits to various places in Pittsburgh, and they also mention the meeting between Trump and Rabbi Jeffrey Myers. Each article discusses, at least briefly, the protests over the visit and accusations of antisemitism. They also explore how these issues could affect voters on election day.
On the other hand, it’s clear these pieces are all drastically different. The story written by NPR was quite unbiased; it stated the facts and remained objective, even when discussing the protests. They presented the concerns of both parties without making any opinionated statements. This cannot be said for either of the other two articles. The post by The Washington Times does mention the protests led by opponents of the president. However, it contrasts each statement by glorifying the president as a good man who took time out from his busy schedule for the Jewish community. They even try to discredit the opposition by accusing them of using these tragedies to tarnish his campaign. The Washington Times article is significantly different from the Huffington Post article. HuffPost persistently maintains that the events are repercussions of the president’s actions, which have allegedly encouraged hate and white supremacy. Their use of language and overall tone is relentlessly defiant towards Donald Trump, which detracts from the facts and the story to push their anti-Trump agenda.
After analyzing all these articles, it’s clear to me that there is a great prevalence of bias in the media. Through my research, I found articles from left-wing news stations that strongly resembled those from right-wing news stations. However, as I delved deeper into the analysis of news stations often regarded as unreliable, I stumbled upon some remarkably biased articles. Some outlets, such as Washington Times, Fox News, Huffington Post, and CNN, push their agenda more than others. This presents a significant problem with the proliferation of choice because someone might unknowingly encounter an article from an agenda-pushing outlet and miss crucial facts. I do believe journalists possess a large amount of information when writing a story, yet they only share the key data that supports their viewpoint.
In summary, the research presented in this paper demonstrates that while there are reliable informational sources that can be trusted, there are also those that cannot. Biased media can influence the ideals and beliefs of the audience, which isn’t always beneficial. In an era when media bias frequently sparks discussions, especially in politics, it is crucial to be educated about which sources provide the most accurate and honest information. Being a constructive member of society not only requires being knowledgeable but also stresses that such knowledge should be accurate and unbiased before forming your own opinions.