How to choose your news

By Hunter Kaap Rencis | 9/13/17 9:28pm


If the spectrum of sources we rely on for our news and information were represented in a way similar to that of a food pyramid, perhaps it would be easier for us to filter and comprehend what constitutes a balanced media diet. 

For those engaged with current events, there is a crucial balance we all strive toward in separating facts and opinions in what we read online and what airs during the 24-hour news cycle.

According to a study put out in August by the Pew Research Center, 9 in 10 adults obtain their news online as opposed to by television. Both components play important roles in how we gather information and formulate our opinions, and now more than ever the line between news and opinion is blurred widely thanks to the internet. As a result, the truth itself has become politicized in many cases. 

With an ever-increasing variety of biases in the stream of content that makes up our own internal newsfeed, it’s apparent that we seek out sources of news and information that represent values most closely resembling our own views. And although these viewpoints we collect from various media outlets are merely personal, they are the opinions that are very much a part of our own identity as individuals. 

Therefore, in the spirit of self-respect, if nothing else, we should educate ourselves on some of these opinions with similar esteem before we adhere them to our perception of the truth. Certainly, educated opinions and viewpoints from various sides are what make up the middle section of the food pyramid of any balanced media diet. But when it comes to the news, the current events we regard as factual should be in their rightful spot at the bottom of the pyramid. 

No matter where you side politically, the truth should matter to you as an educated member contributing to society. Therefore, it can be helpful to have an underlying understanding of where your preferred news outlet falls on the spectrum of left- versus right-leaning political bias.

If you find your favorite network, newspaper or radio broadcast on this widely circulated chart of media bias (see chart), you might be surprised. Although this graphic may only represent one person’s take on various media biases, it provides critical insight and basis for understanding what people widely regard as liberal, conservative or unbiased sources of reporting. 

At the center of the chart, you’ll find many public broadcasting affiliates like PBS and NPR that strive to provide strictly unbiased reporting, although many conservatively leaning outlets like the The Daily Caller, Breitbart News Network or InfoWars would be quick to challenge that claim. 

To the left, you’ll find slightly more progressive, left-leaning publications like The Huffington Post or networks like MSNBC. If we’re able to arm ourselves with the information needed to make a cognizant and up-to-date assessment of these media outlets, we can weather all the Twitter storms and breaking news coverage as it rains down from the sky. Better yet, using this chart and others like it allows us to deviate from our habitual intake of information in an effort to obtain a more complete picture of key, important issues by reading and hearing facts provided from all sides of the spectrum. 

Without giving specific mention to the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the term "fake news" has served as a demeaning term used for discrediting certain members of the press with which said occupant does not agree. To do so is to undermine the sanctity of our First Amendment right, and when the president himself declares such rabid disregard for the importance of our First Amendment right to a free and fair press, he violates the standards of credibility for all reporters. 

So, it is our duty as college students to uphold media outlets that maintain stories based in fact and not with any ulterior motive before formulating our own opinions. Without a close-knit trust between the press and the public, in the void left by society’s distinguished regard for truth in reporting, a space is left in between the lines for "alternative facts" and false claims to instill doubt and division within the public. Opinions and the freedom to openly share them are also constitutional bedrocks of the U.S., but they should not come at the expense of what society regards as the truth. 

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