Media gaffes create uninformed consumer culture

illustration by Benjamin Winans

Hiba Ahmad
Contributing Columnist

illustration by Benjamin Winans
illustration by Benjamin Winans

Mainstream media has become one of the most infamous artists of our time. Conglomerates like CNN, BBC, Fox News and NBC paint dramatic and eloquent pictures of a breaking story to sway their viewers into believing a far more drastic narrative than the actual evidence might show.

The news is supposed to be an ethical source of information that viewers and readers can rely on but the audience is often tricked into the colorful images painted across their screens. The unfortunate reality is that news outlets — whether broadcast, print or online — have drifted from their standards of ethics.

It’s easy to look at Rolling Stone’s inaccurate article on campus rape, any of Don Lemon’s gaffes or anything else that was worthy of being placed on Columbia Journalism Review’s list of worst journalist of 2014 and say the profession is in a tail spin. However, this does not mean that all news outlets have lost their reputability or that all of the information they publish is untrue.

Though big newspapers and broadcast agencies still produce valuable content, they have been forced to succumb to the financial and political pressures. This is where smaller or less well-funded journalism outlets have had their chance to step out and deliver excellent cases of journalism.

Remember the highly addicting weekly podcast known as “Serial”? Sarah Koenig along with her team dug deep into the case of Adnan Syed, a man who was convicted of the murder his ex-girlfriend. Koenig delivered an hour-long podcast every week that highlighted the case made against Syed and his story. Every listener was able to fulfill their childhood Sherlock Holmes fantasy through this podcast. The podcast was able to grip readers because of its consistent effort to stick to facts and evidence along with a sense of personable storytelling.

Other examples of heroic journalism are the journalists themselves. Every year, hundreds of journalists step out of their comfort zones to report on issues that the public merely watches from the comfort of their homes. Scott Foley, a freelance journalist, who made headlines in 2014 for his work in Syria and Northern Iraq lost his life after he was captured by Islamic State militants while reporting in the field.

Finally, the two journalists that were slain on Wednesday August 26 in Moneta, Virginia. Alison Parker and Adam Ward worked for the local station of WDBJ and were out conducting an interview about tourism in the local area when they were gunned down by a previous colleague. They were simply doing their duty to provide well-rounded coverage for the communities that they were in.

Foley, Koenig, Ward and Parker are some of the few examples of trustworthy and honorable journalism that still exists today.

As members of a society where the media plays a large role in our daily lives, we have to be actively aware of the information that is being presented to us. We have to step out of our comfort zones, look past the blaring headlines and do our own research.

The first image or headline a citizen sees is often not the full story. It’s an exaggerated summary of an event or topic to catch the audience’s attention.  For example, a CNN report of police brutality may spark interest and cause you to form an initial opinion that may be biased or simply not true.

News outlets are filled with individuals who entered this profession to be journalists. They are going out into the field to do research and get interviews to write and produce well-rounded stories, but they often get pushed to the bottom of the homepage or hidden behind different tabs because they are not be the most attention grabbing.

According to a Gallup Poll from 2014, only 40 percent of Americans believe that the media is able to report “the news fully, accurately, and fairly,” which is an all-time low from the past 15 years. This

distrust in news is understandable.

As an audience we have to understand that even though the news is supposed to be a trustworthy source, it is still a business. There are certain pressures like ratings and advertising that cause organizations to cater to these pressures in order to get by. It may not be fair, but it is the reality.

The bottom line is that the news is not what it used to be. It’s not straightforward and there is a lot of hype being thrown at the viewers. The public will have to adapt to this newfound media framework and do their part to honor the work of the journalists who are truly out there to share the stories of world.

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