Today: May 22, 2024

Manipulation in the American news media


Media is easily manipulated, and so are we if we’re not careful. To see the facts behind the much-fabricated and sensitized “news” stories in today’s media is a rare and exceptional talent. When reading an article or watching the news, one must take into consideration the bias of the reporter, the words that the reporter uses and the people he or she interviews. Why go through these pains? Why not take what they say as the truth? Because language is as much of a weapon as it is an art. If people solely rely on the words they hear as the truth, then they are not thinking for themselves. Instead, they are being spoon-fed greasy opinions and sugared elaborations.

It is especially important now—with our rocky economy, the campaigning of Republican nominees, and of course, the ever-present Occupy Wall Street movement—to be able to distinguish fact from opinion and to see the effects of a voiced opinion. Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring are two major examples of how opinions and language can have great power and can cause changes world-wide.

Occupy Wall Street started on Sept. 17, 2011 as a group of activists who demanded changes to the social inequality spectrum of the U.S. and the corruptive power banks and large companies have over our government. Soon after this protest started, similar movements popped up in cities nationwide, ranging from Boston to Los Angeles. By the end of October, the Occupy movement had spread to Europe, Asia and South America. This voicing of opinion and standing up against what one believes is wrong is a freedom we all have as Americans, protected by the Constitution’s First Amendment. However, these opinions and biases are not fit to be in the news, which the public looks to for factual and informational reporting—not persuasive propaganda. Realistically speaking, it’s practically impossible to find an unbiased news report or article, so I’ve tried to put together a few ways we as readers or viewers of the news can filter out the polluting bias, leaving the facts for us to interpret for ourselves.

First off, an easy way to tell if an article or news report is biased or not is to look at the quotations the author uses and who they are from. A good reporter tries to get the opinions of both sides within his article. If you are reading a piece and notice that all of the quotations are supporting the topic, then the article is most likely biased. Also find out who the quotation is from—if it’s a person on the street or the head of an influential corporation. This information can change the importance and credibility of the quotation. Lastly, it is important to notice what exactly the reporter or author is saying. If the writer fogs up the meaning of his or her report with rumors or hearsay, it isn’t good reporting. Often this is done to scandalize, to provoke the emotions of viewers, and in turn, to increase ratings. However, rumors and hearsay cause misleading and useless reporting.

What disgusts me the most is when mediocre celebrity news shows, such as E!News and Access Hollywood, drop to the level of the Enquirer. But instead of saying “Jesus seen in pizza,” they gossip over whether or not Miley Cyrus has a baby bump. Instead of focusing on what they know, such as a new movie coming out or the release of a new Gaga record, they waste my time with silly rumors. For a good example of this in today’s more “serious” media, we must go back to the 2004 presidential campaign.

Howard Dean, a democratic nominee for the election, had started as the forerunner, but by January his lead in the campaign fell flat. Part of this was due to John Kerry’s first place finish and John Edwards’s second place finish in the Iowa Democrat Caucus. This third place title did not affect his charismatic optimism, although it is exactly that which shortly ended his campaign thanks to the media’s help.

On the closing night of the caucus, Howard Dean faced his supporters and started an energetic and compelling address, which ended with a loud, “Byahhh!” This final, energetic outburst was soon labeled the “Dean Scream” by the media, which continued to suggest that this speech, due to its loudness, aggressiveness, and of course, the final “Byahhh!” was un-presidential. The scream was repeatedly showed 633 times on broadcast and cable news shows with titles like, “The ‘I Have a Scream’ Speech” and “A Red-Faced Rant.” The extensive coverage of what the media referred to as Deane’s gaffe put an end to his campaign for president, making him yet another scandalized victim of a biased media

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