Journalists Are Not The Enemy
On February 17th during a trip to Florida, President of the United States (POTUS) Donald J. Trump took to twitter to declare that the media, specifically “fake news” outlets, is the enemy of all U.S. citizens. While this is not the first incident where Trump has accused certain news outlets of producing inaccurate information, it is the first time he has incriminated the media as the enemy of the United States. Trump’s diatribe has not gone unnoticed, as #NotTheEnemy became a trending hashtag on Twitter shortly following his tweet.
While Trump is not the first president to criticize the media, he is the first to declare the media as the enemy of the public, and this allegation should not be ignored. After all, the definition of an enemy is a hostile force, which harms someone or something else. So is the media truly damaging the public? The media cannot directly or physically injure individuals; however, it is possible for the media to indirectly harm the public via legitimate fake news coverage. Although, there are certain fictitious news stations and publications that are exceptions, for example satirical news sources like The Onion.
It is critical to note the importance of free press. After all, how would the public have found out about the President Nixon’s Watergate scandal? While the merit for free press should be prevalent, it is vital that the public should also be free to draw their own opinions of a specific news outlet and know how to determine whether or not a particular article has merit.
According to Shepard Smith, a Fox News anchor, “Fake news refers to stories that are created often by entities pretending to be news organizations solely to drive clicks and views based on nothing of substance.” While sources such as the New York Times, NBC News, ABC, CBS, and CNN may not report favorable opinions regarding particular news, these networks are not fake news. Smith continued to defend sources, such as CNN, by stating, “Its [CNN] journalists follow the same standards to which other news organizations, including Fox News, adhere.” Although slight, moderate and severe bias can be present in a news outlet, bias does not conclude whether or not a source is “fake”. After all, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, and the New York Times pride themselves on constructing factual news, and these sources would not knowing hinder their organization’s credibility based on blatant “made-up nonsense” as Smith defines “fake news”.
There are many components that construct an accurate, transparent and trustworthy news source. Credibility is key to determining whether or not a specific source is worth listening to and believing. However, there are many factors that are attributed to a given source’s integrity. Of which, a reader should evaluate a source’s authority, accuracy, and its bias to conclude if the news outlet is indeed trustworthy. While the following criteria can assist the public in determining the quality of a news network, they do not justify calling a source fake news.
1. Authority: Obviously it holds more weight when a staff writer from the Washington Post, which has won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Reporting in 2008, covers a recent news event as opposed to a fitness blogger covering today’s news. Nevertheless, it is not to say that a fitness blogger cannot accurately research and craft an articulate news article; however, the fitness blogger would not have the same degree of jurisdiction as a news outlet, such as Fox News which has over twenty years of experience in news. Therefore, Fox News has a longer resume than the blogger, which would give Fox News more authority in news and politics than the blogger.
2. Accuracy: Are the facts, well, factual? Simple research can help you determine if figures and facts in an article are indeed correct. A quick way to determine if statistics in an article are factual, search for the same coverage from an opposing news source.
3. Bias: Bias has been around forever and will likely continue to be around forever, as everyone has a preconceived belief about nearly everything. While most media outlets are labelled as either liberal or conservative news, they are able to produce unbiased news. Even if a source chooses to take a slightly liberal or conservative take on a specific story, the source’s coverage can still have credibility, as they can include both views of the same issue. However, it is important that the public be able to differentiate between a story’s angle and bias. Thankfully, there are several types of bias that can be easily detected within the media.
The ambiguity effect is a cognitive bias where there is a lapse in information. In the media, the ambiguity effect would be prevalent in quantities and statistics. For example, if a reporter stated that most people do not like a specific online publication, this is ambiguity effect. Instead of stating an exact or approximate figure of how many people do not like said source, the reporter used a vague term (i.e. most). The use of ambiguous terms is often used to promote a particular source’s sources or overall argument.
Confirmation bias is where you agree with people who agree with you, or who have similar views as you. Confirmation bias can be present in both the general public as well as the media. It is present in the public, because people are biased toward news outlets who share the same believes as them; therefore, these individuals might be more inclined to believe a particular station’s new coverage versus a media outlet with an opposing view. However, you can easily detect confirmation bias in the media. A magazine that practices confirmation bias would likely quote like-minded sources, as opposed to sources that would contradict their content.
Wording bias can exist in the media, where journalists can draw biased conclusions from leading questions during an interview. The questions themselves are not biased; however, the result of which can create bias in reporting. Wording bias can be detected in content if a journalist summarizes too much of an interaction, rather than directly quoting the source(s).
Bias by omission is when a source omits the opposition’s argument and/or sources. Bias by omission can occur in a single news clip or article, or it can occur over time if a source omits the opposition’s side in multiple articles.
Labeling bias takes place when a news source labels an individual or group of individuals to benefits the source’s argument. For example during the 2012 presidential election, select news outlets labeled Mitt Romney as a “snob” or an “elite”. Because of these particular labels, the public was able to develop a biased opinion of Mitt Romney.
The media outlets that the POTUS has specifically accused as “fake news” are as follows: New York Times, NBC News, ABC, CBS, and CNN. All of which, are long-running news outlets. However, are they credible or are they indeed fake?
According to the Pew Research Center, news outlets such as the New York Times, NBC, ABC, CBS, and CNN are all liberal media sources, based on their average viewers. Although these media sources might deliver some liberal spins on current events, according to the survey these sources are only slightly liberal, with the New York Times having the most prevalent liberal ideation out of the bunch.
While too much bias is never inherently beneficial, especially in the media, the round table technique prevents any media bias from becoming overbearing. The round table technique is when members with opposing views review and comment on a topic or issue. The aforementioned method allows Fox News, a slightly conservative news source, and MSNBC, a slightly liberal source, to cover that same topic with different opinions. Ultimately, round tabling allows diversity to flourish within the media.
Likewise, it is important to take into account whether an article can be categorized as a piece of opinion editorial (or op-ed). Op-ed articles are often written to portray an author’s particular opinion(s) about a matter, by disassociating that opinion from the actual publication itself. For example, my 3 Reasons The EPA is Already Great article is an op-ed, because I have expressed my personal opinions on why the U.S. EPA is a trustworthy and unbiased source for taxpayers to receive information from. While I have published this article on Uloop News, my opinion is not affiliated with Uloop News and therefore is not Uloop News’ opinion, nor is it factual even if it does quote or reference facts or factual events.
While it is important to be vigilant of bias and credibility when reading the news, it is also crucial to recognize bias from the sources that criticize the media. It is a bit hypocritical that the Trump administration would out the media as an enemy of the people, or claim that specific news outlets are fake, seeing as members of the Trump administration have broadcasted their own fake news and are guilty of their own bias.
During an interview with MSNBC on February 2nd, Kellyanne Conway, referenced the Bowling Green massacre, which she had claimed was an act of terrorism by two Iraqi refugees. Evidently, this massacre never occurred. Kellyanne later correct her statement, claiming that she had meant to say “Bowling Green terroists” during her interview. However, @CityofBGKY continued to revise her statement, clarifying that there was never a massacre in Bowling Green in 2011.
Declinism is the ideology that an entity is declining, despite contrary evidence. Trump might think that the New York Times’ audience is on the decline; however, CEO Mark Thompson denies these allegations, by citing the 220 million individuals who accessed the publication in November 2016 alone.
Likewise, the Trump administration is guilty of bias by omission, after select liberal media sources were blacklisted from a White House press briefing on February 24th. Of the news sources barred from the non-televised briefing, BBC, CNN, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, POLITICO, New York Daily News, The Hill, the Daily Mail, and BuzzFeed appear to be the only sources that were not permitted during the meeting. While the White House has denounced rumors that the administration only barred news outlets with unsatisfactory views of the administration, the news outlets allowed into the briefing included noticeably conservative sources, such as Breitbart News, One America News Network and The Washington Times, and Fox News. However, there were a few slightly liberal networks present at the briefing, including ABC, CBS, NBC, Bloomberg, as well as Reuters, which is not particularly biased.
Though the banned press was not allowed into James S Brady’s Press Briefing Room, they were allowed into White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s West Wing office. It is important to note that POTUS Trump is not the first president to prohibit a “fake news” source from attending a White House press event. In 2009, the Obama administration restricted Fox News from attending a briefing. Shortly after the administration’s turmoil with Fox News, other media outlets with similar and opposing views proceeded to protest press briefings that excluded Fox News.
Like in 2009 and 2010, the present White House’s dismissal of hand-picked news networks has resurrected a detrimental dilemma for the public. Hand-picking certain media outlets for a non-televised discussion creates media bias, as it manipulates the coverage that is permitted to be released to the public.
Because Trump appears to be biased against mildly liberal news sources and is also practicing a cognitive bias himself, he is not likely a credible source to gather information from. It is beyond deplorable that POTUS Donald Trump would make the broad accusation that the media is the enemy, particularly since 1992 256 United States journalists have been killed in the name of their job, which is to gather, dissect and curate information for the general public.
In addition to comprehending what is and isn’t legitimate fake news, it is important that you voice your opinions about the credibility of the media, by completing the Trump administration’s Mainstream Media Accountability Survey.
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