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Nov 27 2015
by Bianca D'Agostino

Why College Students Should Be Paying Attention to Media Bias

By Bianca D'Agostino - Nov 27 2015

As college freshman, we are still learning how to do the thing that is “being an adult.” Along with learning how to do laundry, making healthy food choices and so on, we need to start learning what is really going on outside of our social (media) lives — what lies beyond our screens. And honestly, I think that many of us really want to, but struggle with finding the right sources. That brings me to the biggest problem I feel we have in media today: there is a lack of trust in American media.

According to the Gallup Polls, a well trusted research institution that has recorded public opinion polls since 1935 in America, they state that less than half of Americans (40% to be exact) believe the news is reported "fully, accurately, and fairly." Isn’t this a big problem? We as people should have the right to receive our news and information about current events in a verified and correct manner without the chance of “media bias.” The American Press Institute states that, “Journalism attempts to be fair and accurate” yet many Americans believe that there is a “bias” or a “swayed opinion” on many news stories. The majority of Americans believe that there is a Liberal (a term to describe beliefs and values mainly associated with the Democratic Party, also referred to as “Left-leaning”) bias in regards to today’s media.

One of the most famous historical examples of media bias was with the broadcasting of the Vietnam War in the late 60s and 70s. The news showed many protesters, commonly young "hippies", who were really against the war and felt that it should be ended immediately. 

The idea portrayed by the media was that all Americans were heavily against the war efforts in Vietnam, but this was actually not true--according to a Gallup Poll conducted in 1969, 77% of Americans were in favor of the war efforts, as well as current President Richard Nixon's policies, as stated by The History Channel.  This vast amount of people who were in favor of the war efforts became known as the "silent majority," a term used to identify the majority of people who support an idea or belief but in a quiet manner. The reason why I mention this is to exploit the problem in which even though the majority of people may believe one thing, the media may not cover stories that cater to them--it is more interesting to hear of a large group of youth protesters taking a controversial stance rather than hearing about the people who "go with the flow" and are not being rebellious. 

In more recent news, many people still believe media bias still occurs today. But, there are many ways to educate yourself if you and other Americans want to validate the information portrayed through the news. Student Daily News, a website that is made with the purpose of informing young voters/students, understands that there is a massively perceived bias in the media, so they provide resources on how to discover what bias is out there and how to develop a more "well-informed" opinion on current events. For example, the website states that to accurately determine bias, a reader/viewer must fully understand the values and beliefs of Conservatives (attitudes and belief system connected with the Republican Party/Right Wing) and Liberals (attitudes and belief system connected with the Democratic Party/Left Wing). To do so, they have created an alphabetical list of all the major and controversial topics that are relevant in today's politics in hopes to educate the American Audience so they can see if something is being more favored towards one party or the other in an unjustified manner. Another resource this site provides is well-explained definitions of each of the 6 types of media bias, which includes bias by:  1) Omission, 2) Selection of Sources, 3) Story Selection, 4) Placement, 5) Labeling, 6) Spin. This can be really useful because after we hear or read about something that may not seem all that valid to us, we can reach out to this source to try and determine whether or not the information being relayed has the potential of being portrayed in an altered light. 

So, what does this mean for all of us? What does this mean for the students today that are all going to pioneer the future as we utilize our right to vote, gain educations, and assume the newest job positions available for us in the near future? This information means that we must all take the time and do our research. We must not rely on just one source for all of our information on current events—each station, website, or media sharing platform will tell a story differently than the next will, so we must find ways to avoid bias by comparing and contrasting stories from different news sources. If you have more conservative beliefs, you cannot just trust FOX News to give you all the answers, and vice versa for those of Democratic beliefs trusting solely MSNBC. To be properly informed, try and watch/read a variety of sources to gain different perspectives on different stories. Utilize online sources to help clarify what new story may be yet another victim of media bias, such as the previously mentioned Student News Daily’s guide to determining if the information you have heard or read has fallen into one of the 6 categories of media bias.

I want each and every one of you to be well informed so that you can develop your own opinions that are justified and verified. This is something I personally strive for, and I hope that you will all take the time to do so as well. 

Lead Image Credit: Fox

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Bianca D'Agostino - University of Connecticut

Bianca is a freshman at the University of Connecticut majoring in business and minoring in communications and international business. She political articles and loves to be involved on her campus. Bianca loves to read, run, knit and craft. You can follow her on Instagram @biancadag!

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