For at least a decade now, it has become commonplace for American citizens to receive more information than is possibly consumable right at their fingertips. All you have to do is look at your phone.
While the incredible ease of obtaining information can be a great thing, it also has its downsides with one of them being that our information is more and more tailored to our own likes and worldview. It is becoming more and more rare for people to randomly read something they do not agree with, giving them the perception that “news” should be skewed to their own ideologies because that is what dominates their newsfeed. That perception is causing many to lose the ability to view facts and not see some sort of bias.
Many people are addicted to social media, especially Facebook, which is free to use. Most information on social media is so blurred and manipulated for political purposes that it is difficult for many Americans to understand the difference between news and commentary. People want facts bent to their political point of view that they typically don’t see all the facts that a legitimate news outlet would give them.
As as society, we are also becoming more and more tribal and want to believe that our side is correct. Unfortunately, real life isn’t that black-and-white. There is a lot more gray, and there are times when no side is correct. Even in those cases, there are still facts to be reported.
In the last eight to 10 years, I have become convinced that a large percentage of the population does not recognize news any more and possibly an even larger percentage does not want to recognize or see unbiased news.
The Daily Mountain Eagle on most days uses stories from The Associated Press in our print and online edition. The AP has long been considered one off the most unbiased and factual reporting organizations. They have been consistent for as long as I’ve been in this business, which is nearly 25 years now.
It has only been recently that I have heard people suggest The AP is some sort of leftist media conglomerate. That type of idea is usually only been viewed by me on social media comments, typically on stories that individual person happens to just not agree with the action taking place in the story.
An example would be stories on monuments being taken down. No one has denied any facts in any of those AP stories, but they suggest The Associated Press and the Daily Mountain Eagle are in cahoots in pushing a liberal agenda for simply reporting those things are happening. No one suggested we were left-leaning when we posted a story on Florida residents celebrating the current president’s birthday over the weekend.
True news agencies present facts, hopefully all the facts obtainable at the time of writing the story and updating for any facts that arise after that story is written. If a person gets a certain motion from reading those facts, that has nothing to do with the agency who wrote the article. That is the reader’s own bias causing those emotions.
When we look at legitimate news agencies, such as The AP, National Public Radio, Politico, or any of the hundreds of community newspapers across this country, and we think there may be a slant, it can be helpful to determine what lens we are reading that information through. It is typically our own lenses or biases that need to be removed to see a little more clear.
Of course, reading once is more than a lot of commenters on social media can handle. Most of them only read a headline and come to their own conclusions about what an article is about. There’s so much power behind a keyboard when you don’t have to be held accountable for your opinions in public like journalist are held accountable.
I decided to turn this into a two-part column, with the second focusing how misguided our thoughts on local media can be. Several friends of mine, both conservative and liberal, joined in with thoughts on how powerful a small town media czar can truly be. Look for that piece on Wednesday in the DME.
James Phillips is editor and publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle. He may be reached at 205-221-2840 or firstname.lastname@example.org.