Benjamin Bloom, March 25, 2015
Everybody finds their news from different sources. We live in an age where the Internet makes nearly unlimited information accessible in a matter of seconds. At a glance, one would come to the conclusion that every citizen with a desire to be properly informed could and should be. However, popularized media outlets with a variety of bias’ have created a system where individuals can essentially pick the news they WANT to hear. People form internal rankings of news sources in terms of how seriously they will take them. For example, those who have liberal political ideologies tend to pay more attention to news outlets such as Huffington Post, MSNBC and The New York Times while those with conservative ideologies veer towards Fox News, Wall Street Journal and New York Post. Bias is not an inherently bad thing and it is very tough to be objective, especially when presenting issues and events that you are passionate about, but the political slants that mass media outlets have included in their reporting of the news has polarized much of the nation to the point where people take sides with news channels as if they are sports teams. This isn’t an unintended effect of reporting the news. Media outlets are, first and foremost, businesses with an ultimate goal of making money. In order to make the most amount of money, by way of selling ad space, they have identified target audiences and do their best to appeal to beliefs held by these people.
In addition to the bias’ perpetuated by how outlets present current issues, the increasing concentration of media ownership has led to a situation where six corporations (Viacom, Disney, GE, NewsCorp, Time Warner, and CBS) control 90% of what we read, watch, or listen to. Media consolidation is troubling because it leads to less local control, fewer outlets offering different viewpoints, and less ownership diversity. For example, if there is a solution to an issue that would result in the betterment of society at the expense of large corporations, a media system controlled by a few large corporations could greatly influence the debate and propagate the viewpoint that will benefit them rather than the average citizen. For example, a documented case of media companies using their broadcasting power to their own benefit is when newspaper owners influenced citizens to move towards Nebraska, Kentucky, and the Dakotas during westward expansion. These owners, who had stakes in the land that was to be sold to, were also close allies of railroad companies. They significantly oversold the agricultural capabilities of land in those states in order to make a profit on train tickets and property sales and at one point even propagated the outrageous idea that “rain follows the plow.” I think it would be foolish to believe that owners of media outlets aren’t making similar moves in order to financially benefit in today’s world.
I wanted this to be the first post in MoveNorth because it is imperative that an educated population be at least slightly critical of the news they read. Understanding the intent and purpose of authors and the companies that distribute news is just as important as digesting the facts that are presented within it. This allows readers to question whether their opinions are based on their own critical thinking, or the opinions of the writers and presenters. I implore you to do the same when reading anything on MoveNorth. We will be presenting environmental and social issues, current events, and the opinions of our staff writers. Our primary posts [or title of what our primary posts will be called] will be written using information found in scientific articles and will be cited at the end of the post and our opinion pieces will represent the views and beliefs our staff writers have adopted through schooling, personal experience, and critical digestion of media.